Handling antibiotics with care: Preserving antibiotics now and into the future
Chief Public Health Officer of Canada's Spotlight Report 2019
The decision to prescribe and use antibiotics is shaped by more than medical needs. Unnecessary antibiotic use is also influenced by:
- our relationship with our healthcare providers
- the culture of medicine and the health system
- our collective expectations about how antibiotics work
Taking a clear and stepped approach can help us reduce unnecessary use of antibiotics. It is important to take action by implementing and evaluating promising behavioural interventions, while at the same time building the collaborations necessary within and across communities. Pharmacists, nurses and doctors can all work together to implement common protocols and to support more social science research and surveillance.
As patients, ask your provider if you really need an antibiotic. Explore other options and other potential causes of your illness and/or discomfort. If you need an antibiotic, take it as indicated and return any unused medication to a pharmacy. Also, we can all practice infection prevention through simple measures like:
- hand washing
- avoiding spreading illness to others
- keeping vaccinations up to date
For providers and your member associations, you can collaboratively explore opportunities to:
- share competencies
- training and feedback opportunities
Additionally, there are tools and initiatives underway across Canada that you can implement in your practice and measure what works. In these ways, we can each personally contribute to ongoing coordinated efforts taking place across the country to tackle antibiotic resistance.
Public health and health system leaders can strengthen and sharpen the evidence base by better understanding antibiotic use in Canada and what works to decrease unnecessary use. This clearly requires partnerships between health and social scientists.
While research from peer countries is helpful and informative, we need to better understand Canadian decisions to take antibiotics and healthcare provider decisions to prescribe them. We need to understand how living in poverty, living in rural regions, or having inadequate access to healthcare may be affecting antibiotic use across the country, so we can work to enable all Canadians to enjoy good health regardless of their social circumstances and where they live. Likewise, we can build partnerships across the country to develop, adopt, test, and scale actions that show promise in promoting appropriate antibiotic use in Canada.
Recognizing that reducing unnecessary antibiotic prescribing in community settings is but a small cog in the bigger articulation of work to combat antimicrobial resistance, I look forward to using the findings from this Spotlight Report and the forthcoming Pan-Canadian Action Plan to work with leaders across the country. Together, we can take action to preserve the infection-fighting ability of antibiotics now and into the future.
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