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The world is acting on antibiotic awareness

The world is acting on antibiotic awareness - the Ministry of Health backs global awareness week

New Zealand is joining the global battle to raise awareness around appropriate use of antibiotics.

World Antibiotic Awareness Week 2017 (November 13 to 19) is a World Health Organization global event around one of the most pressing challenges to health care. The theme is: “Seek advice from a qualified health care professional before taking antibiotics.”

Antibiotics are a valuable and powerful tool in keeping people well – but inappropriate use is causing a growth in antimicrobial resistance, undermining the effectiveness of antibiotics and threatening common medical treatments and surgery.

The Director of Public Health, Dr Caroline McElnay, says New Zealand this year presented its Antimicrobial Resistance Action Plan as part of our commitment to tackling what is a global challenge.

“The plan comes from the work of the Ministry of Health, Ministry for Primary Industries, and the human health, animal health, agricultural and wider scientific communities.”

“We are all in this fight together, but the Awareness week is about bringing the message to all New Zealanders - so they can understand that when they see a health professional, they may increasingly hear a message that antibiotics just aren’t the answer for their particular health issue.”

Wellington GP Dr Cathy Stephenson says it’s crucial to work out whether or not a person really needs an antibiotic.

“It’s partly about explaining to patients why antibiotics won’t help. But it’s also about giving them some practical advice that will help them, or their child, feel better - getting good rest, ensuring adequate fluid intake, and advising on proper pain relief. Often when you explain all this, people are actually very happy to avoid antibiotic use."

Dr John Wyeth from PHARMAC says they are charged with getting the best possible health outcomes for New Zealanders from the public medicines budget – and antimicrobial resistance could undermine that.

“We often forget that things we take for granted, like chemotherapy and surgery, would not be possible without antibiotics.”

Chris Little is the infectious diseases and antimicrobial stewardship pharmacist at Capital Coast District Health Board. He is passionate about antibiotic awareness, because it’s crucial that hospitals can continue to use antibiotics.

“We have patients undergoing surgery, and chemotherapy, and their immune systems are weakened. We have to be able to use the right antibiotics, right time, right dose, for those patients.”

Hilary Graham-Smith of the New Zealand Nurses Organisation says nurses are in the frontline of helping patients around proper use of antibiotics.

“Nurses have an integral part to play. Some nurses are prescribers now and more will come. Education about the importance of taking antibiotics as recommended by a health professional, not sharing them, and reporting adverse effects, is key to managing the use of antibiotics well.”

For more information about World Antibiotic Awareness Week, visit the Ministry of Health website at
https://www.health.govt.nz/antibioticawareness where you can view further information, including videos.

You can view the Antimicrobial Resistance Action plan at https://www.health.govt.nz/amrap


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