Have you ever started to take an antibiotic on your own without a prescription? You bought 3 tablets of the medicine that made your uncle better a few weeks ago.
Or maybe you know of someone who was sick with cough and fever and the doctor prescribed an antibiotic for a few days for cough and then forgot to take it when you started getting better? Or have you ever heard about prescription sharing? It is when members of one family may think that an antibiotic that worked for an infection of one member should work for everybody else.
All of the above are examples of how we may unknowingly be using antimicrobials in a wrong way. And wrong use of antibiotics can encourage the development of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Because of just how often these misuse of these precious medicines may be happening, AMR is considered to be one of the most serious global threats to public health today. AMR has been further intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic. AMR is a complex phenomenon where the bugs (like bacteria, virus, fungi, parasite) remain unfazed and continue to thrive despite the presence of antimicrobials. It sounds like a simple operational mishap yet the truth is AMR can be a very daunting problem threatening to become the next silent pandemic. The 2022 Lancet article which describes the global burden of AMR in 2019 before the pandemic, warns us that mortality associated with AMR is close to 5million across the globe. Our country data shows high resistance rates for common pathogens like the E coli, Klebsiella, Acinetobacter baumanni and MRSA. And many are unaware of AMR, its presence amidst us and it implications in our lives. There is an urgent need to increase awareness on AMR and collectively attempt to control, prevent and event stop AMR!
For all these reasons, the Philippine team took the heed of the World Health Organization and used the opportunity of the SEAOHUN Grant to expand the reach of AMR advocacy. Every year, the world dedicates one week to celebrate the World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (WAAW). It is set every November 18-24.
In 2021, we worked on reaching as many Filipinos, groups, schools, universities, companies, government and private agencies, and personalities in the country in a full blast nationwide all-inclusive participation in the WAAW. We built broader collaborations between schools and universities in the PhilOHUN; and across agencies and institutions involved in human, animal and environmental health for a sustainable advocacy One Health response. We challenged all to eliminate misuse and overuse of antimicrobials whether as a prescriber, dispenser, user, distributor, producer or consumer and be part of the solution!
So over the seven days of the 2021 WAAW, we filled each day with events, activities and contests from which we shared what AMR was and how we could stop it. There was something for just about everyone!
The week started with a show of force and commitment called the High-Level Media Forum. All the big leaders of the stakeholders were there and gave their word that they will support the AMR activities including from the WHO, FAO, OIE, UNEP, the PhilOHUN and 9 local agencies.
The biggest hit group are the human health providers. There are more than 1000 health facilities in our country. And doctors, nurses, pharmacists have been become with efforts towards helping the prescribers prescribe better. This is a program called Antimicrobial Stewardship(AMS). During the 2021 WAAW we reinvigorated the AMS spirit by tickling their competitive streaks and calling for the Best AMR Infographic!
We also had days dedicated to those working in the Animal Health Sector, our friends in industry and consumer groups. But the “GameChangers” without doubt were the tandem of the Youth and the Teachers! 2021 was the first year that we were able to involve the Youth! Through the student organization from the University of the Philippines called the “Medical Students for Social Responsibility”. The students creatively developed a Youth Conference on AMR entitled with a catchy title “YOUth against AMR” with an additional AMR Tiktok contest.
On the other end of this undeniably great investment-high yield AMR advocates are the selfless 37,000 teachers in the public schools. In addition to their webinars, they also launched two contests for students on AMR and what could be done: Best AMR Vlog and Best AMR Essay! The innovativeness, creativity and wide participation in all the contests were outstanding! All 17 regions of the country had entries to all the Youth AMR contests.
SEAOHUN 2022 Small Grants
Project team leader: Regina Berba MD
Team members: Prof. Melbourne Talactac, Dr. Mario Panaligan, Dr. Anna Melissa S. Guerrero