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Antibiotic resistance — A global problem with regional solutions

Do you know the main causes of global antibiotic resistance? Or how many deaths are projected if nothing is done to address what’s considered one of the world’s deadliest health crises?

During World Antibiotic Awareness Week (12-18 November), the World Health Organization (WHO) and many similar organizations will publicize the answers to these questions and encourage everyone to do their part to tackle the problem.

The challenge

The spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria is threatening the effectiveness of last-resort treatments for life-threatening infections. Every year, 700,000 deaths (and counting) are attributed to antimicrobial resistance, a category that encompasses antibiotic resistance. Without action, the death toll could reach 10 million annually by 2050.

The causes include misuse and over-prescription of antibiotics; use of antibiotics in agriculture; lack of research leading to an anaemic drug pipeline; and poor hygiene and sanitation.

Global action

The WHO’s Global Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance features a five-pronged approach to:

  • Improve awareness and understanding of the problem
  • Strengthen the knowledge and evidence base through surveillance and research
  • Reduce infection through effective sanitation, hygiene and infection prevention measures
  • Optimise the use of antimicrobial medicines in human and animal health
  • Develop the economic case for sustainable investment in new medicines, diagnostic tools, vaccines and other interventions

What we’re doing

At Aetna, we’ve been supporting these essential goals through such intervention, education and advocacy efforts as:

  • Comparing ‘superprescribers’ (doctors whose antibiotic prescription rates exceed accepted standards) to their peers and educating them about proper antibiotic use
  • Emphasising antimicrobial stewardship in clinical training
  • Checking antibiotic prescription data for dosage, duration and rationale for usage
  • Encouraging doctors to educate patients during office visits about appropriate antibiotic use
  • Educating members directly through care management

What you can do

Learn more about the problem. A good start can be with our white paper, Antibiotic resistance: Toward better stewardship of a precious medical resource.

Pass along to employees this checklist of things they can do to help solve the problem of antibiotic resistance, including:

  • Understanding what antibiotics are for
  • Checking with a health care professional before taking antibiotics
  • Always finishing a prescribed course of antibiotics
  • Never taking leftover antibiotics or sharing them with others
  • Practicing good hygiene and infection prevention

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