A year after Kerala became the first State to devise an Anti-Microbial Resistance (AMR) action plan, efforts to implement it are moving at a slow pace, says Abdul Ghafur, a special invitee to the panel set up to enforce the proposals.
AMR is a public health issue that needs to be managed like a crisis and not just as a scientific issue. Right now, there is no systematic participation of the people, political leaders, or elected representatives who can pass over the message to the grassroots, Dr. Ghafur, coordinator of the Chennai Declaration on antibiotic resistance and a consultant in infectious diseases at Apollo Hospital, Chennai, told The Hindu. The action plan was unveiled in October 2018.
The World Health Organisation defines AMR as the ability of micro-organisms like bacteria, viruses, and some parasites to stop antimicrobials such as antibiotics, antivirals and antimalarials from working against it.
As a result, standard treatment may become ineffective and infections persist and spread to others. Some of the proposals in the action plan are aimed at increasing public awareness of anti-biotic abuse and AMR, strengthening knowledge and evidence through surveillance and reducing infection through effective measures.
As of now, educational activities have been taken up among the medical community and a surveillance network is being formed. Dr. Ghafur, however, says they alone would not make a significant difference.
AMR is also a socio-economic and political issue. The medical community is one of the dozens of stakeholders. It cannot solve it alone, Dr. Ghafur says.
Kerala has a highly vibrant and politically aware public. The public are the most important stakeholder in controlling AMR. Kerala so far hasnt succeeded in engaging the public despite the Chief Minister expressing his wish to make it successful like the literacy campaign, he notes.
Dr. Ghafur points out that none of the prominent non-governmental organisations has been roped in. Though Kudumbashree has been included in the action plan, its functionaries have not been involved in the enforcement.
Dr. Ghafur suggests that awareness programmes should be held not only at medical colleges and hospitals, but at arts and science colleges as well. The possibility to involve community organisations such as the Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana (SNDP) Yogam and the Muslim Educational Society, and various Christian organisations that run a network of hospitals too should be explored, he adds.