UK’s Chief Medical Officer advocates “power of the people” for tackling antimicrobial resistance

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Ahead of the Call to Action on Antimicrobial Resistance in Berlin today and tomorrow (12–13 October 2017) the UK’s Chief Medical Officer, Sally Davies, spoke about the need to ensure antimicrobial resistance (AMR) stays on the political agenda, and the role of the individual in achieving this, at Antibiotic Research UK’s annual lecture.

Davies highlighted the issues currently surrounding AMR, for example, although the O’Neill review was a first step in estimating the burden of this public health problem, we are unable to attribute cause of death to AMR and therefore we do not have true data on the size of the issue. Moreover, AMR is a complex problem involving domestic animals, livestock and environmental factors in addition to human health. Finally, Davies commented that when advocating to politicians and individuals AMR appears “faceless” – based primarily on numbers – arguing that we need real stories to emphasize its importance.

The political journey on AMR started for Davies when she published her 2011 Chief Medical Officer’s report on infectious disease, and since then she has pushed this issue at the highest political levels – securing a political commitment on AMR at the UN General Assembly in 2016. Davies highlighted that there has been positive progress, for example, in the UK we have decreased antibiotic prescriptions and globally 67 countries have put together a national action plan, with an additional 62 in the progress of doing so.

Looking forwards, Davies explained the role of the Interagency Coordination Group on AMR in providing practical guidance and outlined its principles and its ‘Framework for Action’, which builds on the Global Action Plan and the Sustainable Development Goals and will be piloted during the Berlin conference. In addition, the UK is in the middle of a strategy refresh, which is hoped to be published in autumn 2018, with a draft by the end of November for consultation early next year.

Davies highlighted that the next steps will not be easy, but that this issue is too important for complacency. She explained that we must not lose momentum and that the Berlin Call to Action event was a way to ensure this – bringing key influencers together and pioneering new partnerships.  She emphasized the need for strong leadership, tangible commitments, implementation of strategy, co-ordination and support as the key messages in tackling this issue.

Davies ended with a powerful call to action ahead of the Berlin meeting – stating that she can look at the next generation and tell them she has done all she can to fight AMR – but as an individual, can we? We must hold governments to account, use our influence as a consumer, advocate on this issue and do more to ensure that future generation have the same benefits from antibiotics that we do.

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