Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is one of the most serious and urgent global threats to public health today. AMR affects human, animal, and environmental health. It is a multi-faceted problem of crisis proportions with significant economic, health, and human implications. Addressing the threat of AMR is a fundamental global health priority, and the responsibility of all countries. To do this, there is a need for an effective One Health approach so that the unnecessary or inappropriate use of antimicrobials is minimized, emergence of resistance is slowed down, and transmission of the growing pool of resistant microbiome is prevented and controlled.
To tackle this issue in the Philippines, during the Covid-19 pandemic, Prof. Regina Berba, from the University of the Philippines Manila, launched the project called “Be part of the Solution! #AMR-COVID-19 Challenge.” This advocacy initiative aimed to reach as many Filipinos as possible to make them aware of the problem of AMR and its consequences on human, animal and environmental Health. It targeted to increase knowledge on the global AMR problem by engaging at least 70% of universities, schools, physician and veterinary groups and pharmaceutical companies during the 2021 World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (WAAW); and to lay the foundation for a network as a sustainable AMR collaboration of stakeholders within the Philippines.
Globally, WAAW takes place every year from November 18th to the 24th. In 2021, the limitation brought about by the pandemic, forcing the Philippine WAAW (or Philippine Antimicrobial Awareness Week, PAAW) organizers to make the week-long event 100% on virtual platform, did not dampen the spirit and excitement for the celebration! Prof. Berba, with a very enthusiastic core team of representatives from key stakeholders in the One Health approach, packed each day of the week with learning activities and highlighted by contests for different groups. There was something for every person within the broad One Health audience.
PAAW was grandly launched on November 18th, 2021 using a high-level media forum engaging 14 heads of relevant agencies broadcasting their messages of commitment to fight AMR; starting with WHO, FAO, OIE and UNEP as well as nine local departments led by the Department of Health (DOH) and Department of Agriculture (DA) and Director Michael Tee of the PhilOHUN.
Every day thereafter, held a webinar organized by various professional associations such as the Philippine College of Physicians (PCP), the Philippine Society for Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (PSMID), the Philippine Hospital, Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP) and their partners, hospitals such as the Corazon Locsin Montelibano Memorial Medical Center, agencies such as the Department of Health (DoH), the DA and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), as well as universities such as the Cavite State University(CSU) and the University of the Philippines (UP). Since the seven days of the WAAW were not enough, more events rolled over into the next two weeks where more webinars on AMR took place organized by the Philippine Society of Hospital Pharmacists (PSHP) and the Department of Education (DepEd). There were a total of eleven webinars, each with several resource speakers occurred over the PAAW; recordings are still available on the different websites. To reach out to as many Filipinos as possible, there was something to fit every potential AMR advocate from all walks of life: from professionals to lay persons, the young and not-so young. An amazingly large audience totaling 170,127 participants were counted in the PAAW tally!
It is noteworthy to mention the extraordinary participation of two groups for the first time: 1) the DepEd through its key leaders and hundreds of its teachers across the country; and 2) a small but active group of medical students called the Medical Students for Social Relevance (MSSR) including an extensive network with other student groups. Both readily embraced the significance of their involvement in increasing the awareness of our youth across the country. In a two-day webinar series, the DepEd engaged the thousands of teachers on “what, why and how” to teach the problems and some practical age-sensitive solutions to AMR. They are on their way to next integrate these concepts to their curriculum. The MSSR also had an afternoon youth camp with other students sharing “what, why and how” youth can get involved in the fight against AMR.
The various contests were additional attractions which stimulated more interest in AMR, MSSR posted an invitation to the high school students to create AMR Tik Toks! DoH announced it’s search for three AMR champions among hospital workers, among community workers and among partners in industry. The PCP challenged health organizations to craft the best infographics on AMR control. A poster making contest was called to the veterinary medicine students. Excellently produced video blogs and well-written essays were contributed by many eager students from all the regions in the country through the encouragement of their teachers. Through these contests, the PAAW harvested many original materials now circulating through the social media platforms enough to sustain the country’s commitment to fight AMR.
The 2021 PAAW culminated in the Awarding Ceremonies.
The keynote speech was most fittingly given by the SEAOHUN Executive Director, Professor Dr. Vipat Kuruchittham.
After this successful event, the second phase of the small grant project will take place, including a post-survey of feedback on the WAAW and a post-event meeting to summarize lessons learned and plans for AMR advocacy. Through the SEAOHUN Small Grant award, the fight against the ominous threat of AMR continues in the Philippines and hopefully will ripple on to create a strong enough force to stop this pandemic.