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World Antibiotic Awareness Week – understanding the links between AMR and UHC

Published on 15 November 2018

This week (12 – 18 November) is World Antibiotic Awareness Week, aiming to raise awareness of antibiotic resistance and highlight messages among the general public, health workers and policymakers to help prevent further resistance occurring in the future.  Researchers at IDS have undertaken a substantial amount of work on this issue globally as part of wider research on antimicrobial resistance or AMR (of which antibiotic resistance is a significant part of) and Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

A health worker in Mali explaining antibiotic medication to a patient.
Image copyright: Giacomo Pirozzi / Panos. A health worker in Mali explaining antibiotic medication to a patient.

AMR and Universal Health Coverage

World leaders have declared AMR to be a global crisis. They have also, as part of the Sustainable Development Goals, adopted UHC as a key target. But, as IDS’ Dr Gerry Bloom argued in a widely disseminated 2017 paper for BMJ Global Health, neither ambition is achievable in isolation from the other.

Members of IDS’ Health and Nutrition cluster have argued for some time for greater alignment of the two policy agendas, so that AMR does not undermine efforts to achieve universal health coverage.

As a global issue it is one that IDS has been working closely with international partners on, including co-hosting a high-level meeting in Japan in May this year on the pursuit of UHC in the context of disease management and AMR, with the Asia-Europe Foundation and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan.

Recognising health inequalities and limited antibiotic access

Within the context of UHC and developing countries, it must be recognised that very large numbers of people still do not have access to antibiotic treatment when they have an infection. Action on antibiotic resistance should not undermine the continuing need to ensure everyone has access to the medicines they require to live full and healthy lives – a goal which has not yet been consistently reached outside of richer countries.

Influencing politicians and advocating for global partnerships

One of the main messages coming through in the IDS research on AMR and UHC is that a global coalition must come together to fight what is a global problem.  And for that partnership to include not just health workers, INGOs and multi-lateral organisations, but crucially also pharmaceutical companies and other private sector providers, scientists and national governments.

To share research with policy makers in the UK IDS produced a briefing on tackling antibiotic resistance domestically and globally, which was communicated to UK Members of Parliament ahead of a parliamentary debate on UK efforts to tackle antibiotic resistance.

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