Regional variations in the use and awareness of the California poison control system

Timothy E Albertson, R. Steven Tharratt, Judy Alsop, Kathy Marquardt, Stuart Heard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Purpose: To investigate regional variations in public awareness and utilization of the services of Poison Control Centers (PCC) before and after an intervention. Methods: This study examines call rates of different California regions based on the final five regional PCCs prior to the consolidation of these services under a single statewide California Poison Control System (CPCS) and interventions to increase utilization. Awareness surveys were performed before and after a media campaign that was directed primarily to the Los Angeles basin and to a lesser extent other high Hispanic concentration areas. Focus groups were also utilized to better define specific areas of poison knowledge and awareness of CPCS services. Findings: Large differences in regional California call rates were seen, with the Los Angeles basin showing the lowest utilization of CPCS services compared with the rest of California. Significant seasonal variation in utilization was also found, with the highest average call rates observed in August and the lowest in February. Focus groups demonstrated that urban awareness of PCC was lower than suburban awareness, particularly in monolingual Hispanic households. An improvement was seen after the institution of a media education campaign that included use of Spanish language material and radio spots. Similar increases in call rates were also seen in Fresno county category, with a higher percentage of Hispanic population that was not as aggressively targeted by the awareness campaign. Conclusions: Significant regional variations in CPCS call rates were found and an increased awareness and utilization was seen in the Los Angeles basin after a directed media campaign compared with most areas of California. Further efforts to increase CPCS utilization in the Los Angeles region, primarily among urban monolingual Hispanics, are needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)625-633
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Toxicology - Clinical Toxicology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2004


  • American Association of Poison Control Centers
  • California poison control system
  • Call frequency
  • Penetrance
  • Poison control centers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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