News and Opinions  –  2023

ReAct Asia Pacific: Sensitizing civil society in India

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Given the potential of civil society organizations to support activities to mitigate antimicrobial resistance and their ability to influence policies on important issues, ReAct Asia Pacific and World Animal Protection India hosted a workshop on antimicrobial resistance and community engagement. This to sensitize different civil society organizations working on broader health issues and issues close to antimicrobial resistance. The meeting identified 10 possible strategies civil society organizations could take up to mitigate antimicrobial resistance.

Group photo of the 32 participants of the civil society workshop in Kerala, India.
Participants at the civil society workshop in Kerala, India. Civil society engagement is crucial for a robust response to antimicrobial resistance. Photo: ReAct Asia Pacific.

28 April, the one-day “Civil Society Workshop on Antimicrobial Resistance and Strategies for its Mitigation Through Community” was arranged in Kochi, Kerala, India, to foster dialogue and explore opportunities for potential collaborations needed to address the pressing challenges of antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

10 strategies for civil society organizations to mitigate antibiotic resistance

The meeting identified 10 possible strategies civil society organizations could take up to mitigate antimicrobial resistance in the short and long run.

  1. Take up communication campaigns in their relevant areas. For example, those in the animal sector could campaign to disseminate good-animal husbandry practices and measures to reduce antibiotic use in the farm sector.
  2. At a higher level, they could also advocate for the need to generate good-quality representative data on antibiotic consumption in the animal sector.
  3. The civil society organizations also discussed the challenges with the current narrative and the need to shift the language from a purely technical one to a broader one with antimicrobial resistance as a development issue by emphasizing infection prevention at all levels across sectors. It was suggested that there is a need to stop framing this as a battle against bacteria.
  4. Civil society organizations may also pilot and disseminate viable alternatives to antimicrobials in the veterinary sector (such as ethnoveterinary and traditional medicines).
  5. Civil society organizations working in the healthcare sectors can promote and disseminate the antibiograms (and national guidelines) to clinics, private practitioners, and health workers and highlight the need for prudent antimicrobial use, especially in areas where microbiology laboratory facilities are not available or not affordable, and empirical antibiotic use is prevalent.
  6. The biggest challenge identified was communicating antimicrobial resistance to non-medical people. Hence, it was proposed that civil society organizations undertake campaigns with comprehensive and effective messages across sectors to raise awareness and make people understand the need for a One Health approach.
  7. Civil society organizations could also help in promoting access to antibiotics. Besides, civil society organizations could also advocate against irrational fixed drug combinations with antibiotics, especially those from the Watch and Reserve category.
  8. Civil society organizations could participate in World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (WAAW) and further amplify the messages.
  9. Civil society organizations working in other infectious diseases, such as Tuberculosis, have a good outreach and interactions with community pharmacists, which could be used to promote awareness on rational use of antibiotics, thereby significantly restricting over-the-counter use of the WHO WATCH and RESERVE categories of antibiotics.
  10. Civil society organizations could continue identifying and nurturing AMR champions, educating policymakers, and ensure that health issues are among the top priorities on the political agenda. While India has many successful ambassadors on digital media advocating for the likes of immunization against polio, the need for tuberculosis testing, and other important issues, no such digital campaigns exist for antimicrobial resistance.

The meeting provided valuable perspectives for those working in AMR-sensitive areas and served as a platform for cross-sector collaboration, knowledge sharing, and partnerships.

Varied and interesting representation

The meeting had 32 attendees, with representatives from among others:

  • the WHO country office
  • Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI)
  • Third World Network (TWN)
  • Infection Control Academy of India (IFCAI)
  • SHARE India
  • Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology
  • One Health Poultry Hub
  • Resource Group for Education and Advocacy for Community Health (REACH)

These groups work at different levels on different themes, such as access to health care, infection prevention and control, TB, socio-economic development and came forward to share their valuable perspectives. There was representation from organizations working on gender (Archana Women’s Centre), environment ( Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), and climate change (Sustera Foundation).

Everyone can play their role

Dr Shruthi Anna Thomas, Junior Consultant, ReAct Asia Pacific. presenting at the one-day workshop for civil society organizations. Photo: Sajeer

After introductory addresses by the representatives from ReAct Asia Pacific and World Animal Protection India, the meeting commenced with an insightful keynote address by the WHO Country Office India representative, who shed light on the issue of containment of antimicrobial resistance and the various steps India has already taken. He also emphasized the need for civil society organizations to take a holistic approach to antimicrobial resistance mitigation and stressed that everyone should feel responsible.

Experts from various fields gave talks on diverse topics such as drivers of antibiotic resistance in human health, environment, food animal sector, and how civil society organizations could contribute in these areas.

ReAct Asia Pacific’s indicator framework was showcased by Satya Sivaraman, Communications Coordinator, ReAct Asia Pacific. Photo: Sajeer

ReAct Asia Pacific’s indicator framework was also showcased during the workshop to discuss how civil society organizations could target and adapt relevant indicators pertinent to their area of expertise.

Dr. Jaya Ranjalkar, Interim Director ReAct Asia Pacific. Photo: ReAct Asia Pacific

Jaya Ranjalkar, Interim Director ReAct Asia Pacific says:

Civil society organizations play a critical role across sectors by providing crucial technical expertise in supporting the implementation of public health programs, in raising awareness on critical issues, and serving as monitoring & accountability agents, among other roles.

As civil society organizations work closely with communities, their inputs on ground realities are essential to complement the top-down health policies implemented at national or subnational levels. Civil society organizations also contribute to bottom-up efforts.

Antibiotic smart communities as a way forward

Communities need to engage for action on the global health challenge we all are facing – drug-resistant bacteria. With this mindset, ReAct Asia Pacific initiated the project Antibiotic Smart Communities.

Learn more: ReAct Asia Pacific: Antibiotic smart communities as a way forward


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