Canterbury Health System is getting behind World Antibiotics Awareness Week and you should too - antibiotic resistance caused by the misuse or overuse of antibiotics is one of the biggest threats to global health today. So if ever there was good reason for having a health-themed week and something worth getting behind, this is it.
This week the World Health Organization is asking health systems across the world to promote the message that antibiotics must be 'Handled with Care'. We agree.
Canterbury DHB CEO David Meates says if we carry on as we are, antibiotic-resistant microbes are predicted to kill more than 10 million people worldwide every year by 2050 and cost the global economy US$100 trillion.
"But we don't have to carry on as we are and there are things everyone, including you, can do to help – starting with finding out more by reading on."
Each time antibiotics are used there is a chance that some bacteria will survive and be resistant to future treatment – which is why you should use them according to medical advice and only when it is absolutely necessary.
If we overuse antibiotics they might not work when you really need them and leave you vulnerable to new infections for a while. Even when used correctly, antibiotics can have side effects such as skin rashes, diarrhoea, or thrush – that may be because each treatment wipes out the good bacteria along with the bad and leaves the way clear for the wrong bacteria to become dominant.
Here's what you can do:
Only take antibiotics that have been prescribed specifically for you
Seek advice and follow directions from your prescriber or a pharmacist
Clean your hands frequently using soap and water or hand sanitiser, especially:
after going to the toilet
when visiting vulnerable people - in hospital or aged residential care homes
handling compost or soil.
And what not to do:
Don't take them, or ask for them, for viruses like a cold or flu. They won't help and will probably make you feel worse
Don't take antibiotics prescribed for someone else
Don't keep antibiotics from a previous treatment, it's too easy for them to be misused later
Here's what we are doing:
As part of a joint project with the Canterbury Initiative, our other CCN partners - the Canterbury Community Pharmacy Group and the Department of General Practice at the University of Otago - we have created some resources for general practice and pharmacy.
Look out for a 'waiting room' poster that pushes the message that antibiotics don't fix everything and prompts people to seek advice from their prescriber or a pharmacist.
Look out too for a 'consulting room' pledge poster which confirms your health provider's commitment to always providing the best care for your needs - which will not involve prescribing antibiotics where they would do more harm than good.
"While the 'Handle with Care' message is relatively simple and we hope this week will boost awareness of the issue, together we need to become part of a massive worldwide shift in how we think about using antibiotics," Mr Meates says.
Media queries can be directed to Canterbury DHB Senior Media Advisor Jendy.Harper@cdhb.health.nz (03) 364 4122 or (027) 502 7523
For more information, visit WHO- world-antibiotic-awareness-week
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