Health workers at the frontline of drug resistance


Geneva, 7 April 2011 | World Health Day 2011 focuses on the complex issue of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), also known as drug resistance. Healthcare workers are at the frontline of the emergence of drug resistance. They work in hospitals or other healthcare settings where patients who frequently receive antimicrobial medicine are more likely to develop and spread resistant infections.

"Health workers need to be provided with all necessary tools, knowledge and unbiased information about drug resistance and programmes to ensure early detection and containment," said Alliance Executive Director Dr Mubashar Sheikh, "It is everyone's responsibility to think about the severe consequences and take action to avoid a step back to an era when such life-saving medicines were unavailable."

One of the key drivers of drug resistance is the inappropriate use of antimicrobial medicine, such as antibiotics, antivirals and antimalarials. If the treatment period is inaccurate - too long or too short - resistant strains can develop and may render the treatment ineffective resulting in long-lasting illness or greater risk of death for the patient. Health workers who are poorly informed about accurate drug prescription practices inadvertently contribute to the development of drug resistance.

Alliance partner WHO is launching today a policy package to combat drug resistance, which includes six action points to increase global awareness of the issue and guide countries with practical measures. These actions focus on both areas relevant to the fight against drug resistance, namely the proper use of antimicrobials and the prevention of resistance spread. Actions range from the need to develop comprehensive, financed national plans with accountability and civil society engagement, to strengthening laboratory capacity, quality assurance, enhancing infection, prevention and control programmes and fostering innovation.

The Alliance is calling on its members, partners, health workers and all those dedicated to the health workforce to join WHO in raising awareness of the issue and to help contain the emergence and spread of drug resistance.