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Policy  –  Elements of a plan

Awareness and understanding

Improved awareness and understanding among the general public, health professionals, educators, civil society organizations and governments is essential when addressing the antibiotic resistance problem.

This is also the first strategic objective of the Global Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance. Public awareness campaigns can be effective when sustained and properly adapted to local conditions, and can help people take an active role in their health and ownership for their actions. This is of extra importance in settings where antibiotics are sold over the counter without a prescription. For the non-human sector, education and awareness-raising have to reach both farmers, veterinarians, the food industry and consumers. Engaging media in awareness campaigns may further increase reach and impact.

Example activities for action

  • Development of an external and internal communications strategy on antibiotic resistance can be helpful to assist those in charge of implementing awareness initiatives within the government or for associated stakeholders. The strategy should specify the intended target groups and can outline overarching messages to be communicated.
  • Advertising by pharmaceutical companies or drug sellers is frequently the only source of easily available information on medicines. Unbiased consumer information should be made available publicly as a function of the government.
  • A key point from a policy perspective is the inclusion of topics related to antibiotic use and antibiotic resistance in curricula for all human and animal health professionals, as well as for food industry and agriculture professionals.
  • Encourage and enable continuous professional education on resistance and related topics.
  • To achieve sustainable change and promote better understanding and awareness among the general public, it is also advisable to include aspects of infection prevention, antibiotic use and resistance in school curricula from a young age.

Getting started

A first initiative could be to prepare a campaign for World Antibiotic Awareness Day/Week, which is arranged all over the world in November each year. Materials can be prepared individually by participants or material available from for example WHO can be adapted to local settings. Read more in RAISE AWARENESS: Examples from the field – World Antibiotic Awareness Week.

Engage key stakeholders affected by the problem

As antibiotic resistance is a phenomenon across a whole range of diseases and not a disease in itself, there are very few patient organisations dedicated to the issue. As such, it is important to engage civil society/interest/patient groups in areas that will be affected by antibiotic resistance. Examples of these could be:

  • Cancer societies – Antibiotics are needed to keep infections in check when patients are on chemotherapy.
  • Maternal and child health groups – Antibiotics are life-saving commodities for sepsis and pneumonia in newborns, and needed to prevent or treat infections in for example caesarean sections.
  • Animal welfare groups – Antibiotics are often used to maintain animal health in densely crowded animal populations and hygiene management is less efficient.

These types of organisations can be vital not only to raise awareness of the problem but also help in implementing solutions to manage antibiotic resistance.

Empowering others

As stakeholders become aware of the issue, they can move from being informed towards taking action and influencing others. As an example, consumers are increasingly raising their concern for antibiotic use in the supply chain. The World Consumer Rights Day 2016 focused on pushing the world’s largest fast food companies to make global commitments to stop serving meat from animals routinely given antibiotics used in human medicine. Another example is the multi-stakeholder platform EPRUMA, which was formed to promote the responsible use of antibiotics in animals in the EU. Taking a holistic approach, the Antibiotic Resistance Coalition (ARC), launched an antibiotic resistance declaration in May 2014. The declaration contains 42 recommendations across human health, animal health and the environment that can be used to raise awareness about the many facets of the antibiotic resistance problem.

See also the UNDERSTAND and RAISE AWARENESS focus areas for background information on antibiotic resistance and information and tools for awareness raising campaigns and education.

Selected Resources

Resource Description
WHO Competency Framework for Health Workers’ Education and Training on Antimicrobial Resistance This framework from WHO outlines core and additional competencies for health workers in regards to antimicrobial resistance, and is a reference guide for academic institutions, educators, accreditation bodies, regulatory agencies and health policy- and decision-making authorities. The purpose is to guide the education and training of health workers.
Revising Preservice Curriculum to Incorporate Rational Medicine Use Topics: A Guide This SIAPS/USAID document guides stakeholders, including university faculty and staff in the fields of medicine, pharmacy, nursing, and public health, through the process of integrating rational use of medicine into the curricula for medical, nursing, pharmacy, and public health students. It includes sample documents from successful projects and templates that can be adapted for new initiatives.
Drug Promotion – What We Know, What We Have Yet to Learn – Reviews of Materials in the WHO/HAI Database on Drug Promotion – EDM Research Series No. 032  This WHO document reviews interventions to control the promotion and marketing of drugs as well as methods to evaluate their effectiveness. The document offers a more theoretical framework and describes research into the effectiveness of interventions.
How to improve the use of medicines by consumers (PDF) This WHO guideline offers a detailed overview of methods to promote the rational use of essential medicines through public communication. It includes guidance on communication through different channels, such as mass media or local news networks and outlines how communication campaigns can be planned, implemented and evaluated.
Building Coalitions for Containing Antimicrobial Resistance: A Guide This SIAPS/USAID guide offers guidance on how to identify key stakeholders for addressing drug resistance, mobilize their support, formulate and implement a plan and subsequently evaluate outcomes. Also provides a number of templates and sample interview forms that can be adapted for different local contexts. An older version is available in Spanish and French.