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Toolbox  –  Policy

National action plans

A national action plan can serve as a core strategy to coordinate and align activities of different stakeholders in different sectors. It can also provide a legal and political framework for action.

National action is needed

Even though antibiotic resistance is a global issue, the major part of the work required to address the problem must be done at national and local levels. This need for national action is reflected in the Global Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance, which calls for national action plans in all WHO member states”].

The Global Action Plan calls for the development of national action plans”]

The plan urges “all Member States […] to have in place, within two years of the endorsement of the draft action plan by the Health Assembly, national action plans on antimicrobial resistance that are aligned with the global action plan. (…) These national action plans should provide the basis for an assessment of the resource needs, take into account national and regional priorities, and address relevant national and local governance arrangements.”

Primary goals of a national antibiotic resistance action plan should be to:

  • Reduce the need for antibiotics through infection prevention and control practices
  • Ensure access to, and appropriate use of antibiotics
  • Monitor emergence and spread of resistant bacteria
  • Increase understanding and knowledge of the antibiotic resistance problem and how to manage it

Who should be involved in plan development?

All use of antibiotics, whether in human or animal medicine, livestock production, in aquaculture or horticulture, drives development and spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria. A strong national action plan on antimicrobial resistance should, therefore, address the issue holistically through a One Health approach.

For an effective One Health response, national and local policy makers (including regulators) and experts across different sectors must be brought together. Involve them throughout the development, implementation and evaluation stages. More information can be found in Engage stakeholders.

The WHO secretariat will assist Member States by:

  • Supporting countries to develop, implement and monitor national plans
  • Leading and coordinating support to countries for assessment and implementation of investment needs, consistent with the principle of sustainability
  • Monitoring development and implementation of action plans by Member States and other partners
  • Publishing progress reports, including assessment of number of countries that have plans in place, their progress in implementation, and the effectiveness of action at regional and global levels

Challenges to overcome

In its “Policy package to combat antimicrobial resistance,” the WHO lists a number of challenges that most countries will have to address when formulating a national antibiotic resistance policy. Among them are the following:

  • Limited public awareness and government commitment: Limited public awareness makes it difficult to place antibiotic resistance prominently on the policy agenda and limits the support from civil society organizations.
  • Fragmentation of effort: The coordination and cooperation between different stakeholders in efforts to manage antibiotic resistance is often lacking and can be difficult to establish.
  • Perverse incentives for the use of antibiotics: Unregulated marketing of antibiotics, their continued widespread use as growth promoters in livestock, or profit-seeking prescribing to patients contribute to antibiotic resistance. In those cases where legal frameworks exist, they are rarely accompanied by effective sanctions to enforce existing rules.
  • A lack of effective infection prevention and control programs: The absence of effective infection control measures across human and animal sectors can facilitate the spread of bacterial infections, resulting in a higher disease burden and increasing the risk of transmission for drug-resistant pathogens.

Countries may be at different stages and have different capacities and resources to tackle antibiotic resistance from the start. Therefore, after a national action plan on antimicrobial resistance is finalized and implemented over a set period, progress is reviewed by all key stakeholders, and a new revised plan is developed and implemented over the next strategic period.  It is a cyclic process of development, engagement, evaluation identifying strengths and weaknesses and development again.  This process is outlined further in Develop a national action plan.

Developing a national action plan

A five-step project management process to facilitate development of a national action plan on antimicrobial resistance can be found in Develop a national action planImplement the national action plan outlines components that may be included in a plan and includes resources to facilitate implementation of these specific components.

Selected Resources

Resource Description
Supporting countries with national action plan implementation Information portal of the WHO collecting tools, guidance and news for national action plan development and implementation, such as the AMR Resource Pack and Sample NAP AMR Checklist.
Global Database for the Tripartite Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) Country Self-assessment Survey (TrACSS) Database. A global open-access database with information on country status regarding development and implementation of national action plans, based on country self-assessments. Developed by WHO, FAO and WOAH. See also Monitoring progress on antimicrobial resistance for M&E publications and assessment tools.
AMR National Action Plans translated by the project Database of an unofficial and english version of all National Action Plans on Antibiotic Resistance.
Library of National Action Plans Information portal. This WHO website page collects antimicrobial resistance action plans of different countries.
Antimicrobial resistance strategies and action plans Information portal that gives an overview of the latest antimicrobial resistance strategies and action plans in the European Union, the United States and Canada, provided by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
Strategic and operational guidance on animal and environmental aspects: National action plans on antimicrobial resistance for developing countries (PDF 0.5 Mb) Report discussing responsible antibiotic use in food animal production, surveillance of antibiotic use and antibiotic resistance and addressing the environmental aspect of antimicrobial resistance in resource-limited settings.
SUPPORT Tools for evidence-informed health Policymaking Journal articles. An article series to guide and give tools on evidence-based health policy-making. It consists of 18 guides that explain different steps in the development, implementation and evaluation of evidence-based health policy. Prepared by the SUPPORT project, an EU-funded research project.
LiST: The Lives Saved Tool Tool. The Lives Saved Tool (LiST) is a PC tool that estimates the impact of scaling up health and nutrition interventions on maternal, newborn, and child health.