Prior research regarding poison center utilization identified risk factors for underutilization including race/ethnicity and acculturation. The purpose of this study was to understand factors contributing to underutilization of poison centers by low-income and minority mothers.


Focus groups were conducted with women attending an urban Women, Infants and Children clinic. Transcripts were analyzed for themes and key points.


Twenty-two English-speaking mothers and 21 Spanish-speaking mothers participated in 7 groups. Participants viewed poisoning as a serious problem to which all children are susceptible. English-speaking mothers had heard of the poison center but were unaware of services provided. They preferred to use the 911 system, which was viewed as immediate medical assistance and was an easy number to remember. Women questioned the credentials of the poison center staff. Spanish-speaking mothers had limited knowledge of poison centers and were concerned about language barriers.


To increase utilization of poison centers, educational interventions must address these specific needs and misconceptions and should be produced in Spanish and English versions.

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