Time for young people to speak up – and step up – on antimicrobial resistance

By OYW Ambassador Rani Krisnamurthi (Centrient Pharmaceuticals) and Alessandro Lazdins (GSK)

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Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is when bacteria develop the ability to resist the effects of antibiotics that could once successfully treat them. Most medical interventions, from dental surgery to chemotherapy to knee and hip replacement, depend on antibiotics’ ability to fight infections. AMR therefore threatens the very fundamentals of modern medicine and affects everyone, regardless of location or age, with a current estimate of over 700,000 deaths a year globally.

And yet, unlike the other defining challenges facing our world, AMR remains poorly understood. A World Health Organisation study, for instance, has shown that significant proportions of people around the world do not have a good understanding of AMR, and how it can affect them. What’s more, studies have shown that young people – the demographic most likely to be affected by the spread of AMR during their lifetime – have far less knowledge than older generations about antibiotics, AMR and how to care for infections. Young people play an essential role not only as antibiotic users, but increasingly as caregivers to other age groups (children and seniors) who consume a lot of antibiotics. Engaging this generation could therefore have a major impact on reducing AMR.

In light of both the widespread misconceptions surrounding antimicrobial resistance, and the pressing need to tackle this issue through collaborative action, we – Rani Krisnamurthi (an OYW Returning Ambassador) and Alessandro Lazdins – were happy to co-host a recent workshop at One Young World 2019. With backgrounds in pharmacy and AMR academic research respectively, we used our knowledge to engage young people on this key planetary health issue. Through an interactive quiz and a campaign-creation session, we challenged our One Young World peers to help us raise awareness on AMR. 

And what, I hear you ask, were the key findings and recommendations from the workshop? 

  • Youth recognise they have a unique role to play in combating AMR but do not feel sufficiently empowered to advocate for the issue. There need to be more bottom-up AMR messages, with the youth being part of the governance and decision-making on AMR education and awareness activities nationally. 
  • We need to better utilise emerging creative digital platforms, such as TikTok, to deliver education and awareness.
  • We should target young healthcare professionals with the goal of making them better AMR communicators. Current campaigns focus on them receiving the technical/’hard’ AMR skills, not the ‘soft skills’ needed for them to communicate AMR issues effectively.

Moving forward, successfully tackling antimicrobial resistance will depend on our collective ability to engage young people on the issue, and drive constructive and effective action throughout society. Only by working together – young and old, around the world – can we deliver cohesive mitigation action that will have real impact in curbing the spread of antimicrobial resistance, and shape a better world for generations to come. The theme for the 2019 World Antibiotic Awareness Week is “It Depends on All of Us”.  And, since no one can do this alone, shall we do it together? 

Learn more here and connect with Rani and Alessandro.