National and international strategies for the control of antibiotic resistance recommend education for health-care professionals and the public to promote prudent antibiotic use. This paper, based on discussions at the 2002 colloquium of the International Forum on Antibiotic Resistance (IFAR), provides an international discourse between theoretical approaches to behaviour change and practical experience gained in large-scale antibiotic use educational campaigns. Interventions are more likely to be effective if their aim is to change behaviour, rather than provide information. They should target all relevant groups, especially parents, children, day-care staff, and health-care professionals. They should use clear and consistent messages concerning bacterial versus viral infection, prudent antibiotic use, symptomatic treatment, and infection-control measures (eg, handwashing). Campaigns should use a range of communications using pilot-testing, strong branding, and sociocultural adaptation. Prime-time television is likely to be the most effective public medium, while academic detailing is especially useful for health-care professionals. Multifaceted interventions can improve antibiotic prescribing to some degree. However, there are few data on their effects on resistance patterns and patient outcomes, and on their cost-effectiveness. Current research aims include the application of behaviour-change models, the development and validation of prudent antibiotic prescribing standards, and the refinement of tools to assess educational interventions.