Antimicrobial awareness: Community engagement is a key

Building a society capable of taking preventive action in the face of major global threats like antimicrobial resistance requires igniting interest and raising awareness.

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Saugat Pratap KC

  • Read Time 3 min.

Antimicrobials are used to treat the majority of bacterial illnesses. This may change in the upcoming years since diseases are evolving defenses against antimicrobials. As a result, when an antimicrobial treatment is initiated, it has no impact on the infection and another antimicrobial treatment is required. The term “antimicrobial resistance” describes this phenomenon.

The most recent study, which was recently published in The Lancet, estimates that 1.4 million people died in 2019 from diseases caused by resistant bacteria. By 2050, that number may rise to 10 million, making it one of the major causes of death globally.

Antimicrobial resistance is viewed as a global health issue from a One Health approach. The ability of different types of resistance to spread to other bacteria and the environment is being amplified by an increasing number of resistant bacteria. Multidrug resistance will be a reality for the majority of microorganisms if this trend keeps on. This implies that we won’t be able to treat bacterial infections with antimicrobials, which will result in a rise in infection-related fatalities.

World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (WAAW) is observed annually. This year WAAW is being observed from 18 to 24 November with the motto “Preventing Antimicrobial Resistance Together”.    Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) is a growing threat to public health, which has become a matter of worry for stakeholders and policy makers in the healthcare industry. Infection prevention and control programs to stop the spread of resistant microorganisms and antimicrobial stewardship programs to prevent unnecessary usage of antimicrobials that could put patients and people around them at risk for AMR are the two main strategies for controlling AMR.

Although the problem of AMR and its solutions are discussed in numerous fora, there is a lack of patient and public participation, which can result in the public making decisions about infection control measures and using antibiotics without adequate information. AMR containment needs actions outside of healthcare settings. Patients and the general public can acquire and consume antimicrobials without a prescription, especially in many low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Therefore, policies and initiatives to combat AMR need to recognize and take advantage of their participation and contribution.

Patients or communities who take an active role in their own treatment are more likely to be aware of their rights, express their demands, and get answers to their questions, whereas patients who aren’t involved in the decision-making process may get confused, frustrated, or anxious. Patients and the general public must, however, have a foundational understanding of infections, antimicrobials, and the complexity involved in their use in order to participate in and engage with the AMR issue.

Like the majority of medications, antimicrobials are purchased out of pocket in many LMICs. As a result, there is a tendency for expensive antibiotic treatments to be discontinued early, which could increase the risk of ABR. These problems raise the need for involvement of patients, caregivers, and the public in infection treatment decisions, particularly when it comes to the necessity or otherwise of antimicrobial administration.

The necessity for patient and public involvement has been underscored by the National Action Plans (NAPs) and policies of several nations to address AMR, with the possibility of AMR discourse in some countries. However, their practical application can be difficult. This is also the case for Nepal. AMR is still portrayed as a problem for the future, and it seems that most deaths that can be attributable to it go unreported.

Despite the fact that this may sound like some sort of sci-fi story, it’s vital to remember that the deaths caused by AMR are already happening and adding to the expected number. To encourage patient and public involvement and participation, we need to make AMR approachable by illustrating how it affects people’s lives and how it affects their families, livelihoods, and quality of life. Initiatives for patient involvement not only necessitate patient engagement and participation techniques, but also support the creation of a welcoming environment for patient involvement.

In order to address AMR, it is important to embrace the idea that there should be more stakeholder involvement from the community. This will guarantee that those who get medical treatment have a voice in decisions that will have an impact on them. This will aid in the development of a more balanced viewpoint of stakeholder involvement for AMR control, which will be advantageous to both healthcare providers and patients and lead to more impartial decision-making for AMR control.

Building a society capable of taking preventive action in the face of major global threats like antimicrobial resistance requires igniting interest and raising awareness. 

Saugat Pratap KC is a social science researcher. The views expressed in the article belong solely to the author. 

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