Behavioral interventions for the control of tuberculosis among adolescents.

OBJECTIVES: Activation of latent tuberculosis infection into tuberculosis disease (TB), the primary killer among infectious diseases worldwide, can be prevented with six months of anti-TB medication. A large percentage of adolescents started on medication, however, fail to complete their treatment. The authors developed and tested the effects of innovative educational strategies on infected adolescents at two health centers serving ethnically diverse populations. METHODS: The authors used a randomized experimental four-group design to assess the independent and combined effects of peer counseling and a participant-parent contingency contract intervention. RESULTS: A total of 794 adolescents were recruited into the study, for a 79% participation rate. The overall rate of treatment completion was 79.8%. Self-efficacy for medication-taking behavior at post-test correlated strongly with completion of care (R = 0.367, p = 0.002). Participants randomized to the peer counseling groups demonstrated significantly greater improvements in self-efficacy and mastery than the usual care control group. Based on the study results, continuing education seminars and workshops were implemented for TB control staff at the two health clinics and for all TB Control Division staff at the Los Angeles County Health Department. Educational materials and a training manual for enhancing completion of treatment of latent TB infection through tailored educational approaches were developed and disseminated to the clinics. CONCLUSIONS: Health education and incentives are helpful adjuncts to the completion of treatment for latent tuberculosis infection in adolescents.