Share the article

Raise Awareness  –  Examples from the field

Reimagining Resistance

One of ReAct’s key objectives, since its inception in 2005, has been the ‘promotion of a global consensus for a new paradigm on the use of antibiotics’. In pursuit of this objective, for over a decade now, a variety of activities have been undertaken broadly under the theme of ‘Reimagining Resistance’.

At the heart of this movement has been a desire to shift the negative public perception of microbes, and steer away from the ‘war metaphor’ in medicine, which treats microbes as ‘enemies’ and antibiotics as ‘weapons’. Reimagining Resistance challenges the popular but misleading idea of bacteria as being mere disease causing agents and aims to open eyes to their role in the fostering and preservation of all life forms in the world.

Holistic approach needed

New findings in microbiology, immunology, biophysics and microbial ecology, have begun to unveil the positive role of bacteria in the lives of humans, animals and the environment. Reimagining Resistance attempts to harness this evolving knowledge and promote a more balanced approach to the use of antibiotics, prevention and treatment of infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance itself. This new perspective has led to viewing antibiotic resistance not just as a technical, medical issue, but as essentially an ecological one, calling for a holistic approach to the problem and taking into account the complex interactions between humans, microbes, medicine and society. The ability to frame the issue of antibiotic resistance in terms of its larger social, economic and ecological dimensions, has helped make the issue understandable to a wider stakeholder group and encouraged their involvement in finding solutions.

The Reimagining Resistance project

Over the last decade, ReAct together with partners from its extended network, have advocated for Reimagining Resistance through: international meetings that brought together artists, scientists and social activists for an exchange of ideas; support for the ‘One Health’ concept that seeks to integrate human and veterinary medicine; presentations at various conferences on the need for an ecological approach to antibiotic resistance; and artistic products/performances that highlight the positive role of microbes in our day to day lives. These activities have in turn helped build a large network of people around the globe exploring new ways of approaching the human-microbe-health equation. In some parts of the ReAct network, notably in Latin America, and South-East Asia, the concepts of Reimagining Resistance have inspired both creation of new, innovative communication products as well as mobilization of health professionals and the general public.

Project initiatives

A part of Reimagining Resistance, ReAct Latin America has been working with ‘champion’ communities to develop and seed alternative ways of dealing with antibiotic resistance.

Fotoresistencia

One highlight of these efforts is the photography project Fotoresistencia, where they invited health workers to take pictures of how they visualized bacteria, antibiotics and infectious diseases in their everyday lives. The photos evolved into visual stories that told of the many facets of antibiotic resistance, and were shared through art exhibits and the publication of two volumes of a book.

Child-to-child methodology

ReAct Latin America has also involved school students in activities related to the microbial world, antibiotic resistance and health in general. They have been using the Child-to-Child methodology, embracing children as agents of change. Throughout the project children not only taught each other but also taken home messages to their families and communities.

Child drawing a happy bacteria and a happy planet to illustrate that most microbes are good for humans.
Figure 1. Book on microbes by children for children from ReAct Latin America

ReAct South East Asia and its partner organizations engaged a Thai artist to train 20 pharmacists in Thailand to use painting to express how they visualize the impact of antibiotics on the environment and society. Powerful images resulted, which have been used in creative health promotion in Thailand – and has sparked other collaborations between science and the arts.

Dancing with the Bacteria

ReAct South East Asia also initiated a project in Thailand called ‘Dancing with the Bacteria’, which focuses on three sets of activities, all closely related to the role of the microbial world in daily life. These include promotion of organic food and farming practices, understanding the link between food/nutrition and health and the rational use of medicine, especially antibiotics. As part of the project, a ‘Gardening for Health’ kit, was developed to educate the public on antibiotic resistance, prevention of infectious diseases, nutrition, food safety and medicine. The kits are a resource for training community health workers on the link between nutrition and infectious diseases and also the need to curb the use of antibiotics through healthier lifestyles and greater awareness of both modern and traditional systems of medicine.

Lessons learned from these diverse initiatives have provided inspiration for much of the work in ReAct’s Civil Society Organizations Project, that was implemented in Asia, Africa and Latin America. From theater, music, and public events to communication products, ReAct continuously works to 
harness the 
shared learnings of the Reimagining Resistance 
initiative globally and incorporate into their ongoing work.

Selected Resources

Resource Description
Reimagining Resistance (PDF, 21MB) The book of Reimagining Resistance argues that the crisis of ABR requires a paradigm shift in terms of understanding the microbial world, in relation to the human body and the role of medicine in the equation of humans and microbes.
Microbes and Metaphors (PDF, 11MB) Microbes and Metaphors: A dialogue between scientists, artists and activists, a book which is part of the Reimagining Resistance Series.
Fotoresistencia I (PDF, 7MB) Fotoresistencia II (PDF, 10MB) Volume I and II of the book detailing the photo documentary project FotoResistencia – Antibiotic Resistance in Photos  (Spanish).
De los más pequeños a los diminutos del planeta (PDF, 16MB) The stories in the book show the children’s sophisticated understanding of the way microbes benefit human beings.
Gardening Kit booklets:

Food as Medicine (PDF, 6MB)
Save the Pill for the Really ill (PDF, 2MB)
Adventures in the Human Forest (PDF, 4MB)

These booklets are part of the ‘Dancing with the Bacteria’ series of publications aimed at raising public awareness about antibiotic resistance, prevention of infectious diseases, nutrition, food safety and medicine. The ‘Dancing with the Bacteria’ concept focuses on three sets of activities, all of which are closely related to the microbial world. These include promotion of organic food and farming practices, understanding the link between food/nutrition and health and the rational use of medicine.

More from "Examples from the field"