Training Health Care Workers to Fight Antimicrobial Resistance

Health extension worker Lemlem Worku gives Zara Ahmed amoxicillin antibiotics for her 10 month old baby.Photo credit: UNICEF Ethiopia / CC BY-NC-ND

Devex has reported on the role of well-trained health workers in the fight against antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Increasing levels of AMR — a result of the misuse of drugs, poor-quality medication and improper prescriptions, among other factors — is a threat not only to people’s health, but also to the global economy, poverty levels, and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

By 2050, it will take the lives of more than 10 million people annually, surpassing cancer as a cause of death, according to the United Kingdom’s Review on Antimicrobial Resistance.

MSH, through the Systems for Improved Access to Pharmaceuticals and Services (SIAPS) program funded by USAID, has also been tapping into what it believes is a key factor in the spread of AMR across low-, middle- and high-income countries: Capacity building. Devex interviewed Niranjan Konduri, a principal technical adviser for the program to understand the implications.

From its inception in October 2011 until this June, the SIAPS program has operated in more than 20 countries and supported 496 local institutions and organizations with provision of training or technical assistance in the strengthening of pharmaceutical systems. That could mean updating old in-country pharmaceutical curriculums that did not include addressing AMR, conducting mentoring sessions with health care workers and increasing the number of qualified pharmacists by supporting degree programs.

There has been increasing interest from partners in countries — often coming from ministries of health — in capacity training on how best to work with the public and patients on administering antibiotics, Konduri said. Partnerships with universities help train more pharmaceutical professionals, part of an effort to discourage people from accessing antibiotics as private commodities without a prescription. In many other cases, patients may receive antibiotics from health care workers with little instruction, and then fail to complete their necessary dosage or return to the health care provider.

A paper co-authored by Konduri and published in the Journal of Pharmaceutical Policy and Practice earlier this year draws on the programmatic experiences that MSH has implemented on the ground, in a bid to strengthen health worker systems and reduce AMR.