Approximately 11 hours from now, the United Nation General Assembly will host a “high level meeting” on antimicrobial resistance at the UN headquarters in New York. There will be statements by the UN secretary-general and the director-generals of the World Health Organization (WHO), Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN (FAO) and World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).
This will be only the 4th time that a specific health issue is raised at the UN General Assembly, highlighting the importance of antimicrobial resistance, which has long been ignored (and will continue to be ignored) or at least sidelined against other competing health issues like Zika pandemics, influenza and cancer.
The draft political declaration for the meeting is already available here. It commits member states to develop multi-sectoral national action plans that establish surveillance and regulatory frameworks on antibiotic use, increase awareness of antimicrobial resistance and change behaviour on antibiotic use, improve access to new antibiotics and vaccines, as well as invest in research on new antimicrobial drugs, diagnostics and other technologies that will help tackle the issue of antimicrobial resistance using a One Health approach. Many prominent scientists and experts have pushed for hard targets and specific timeframes that these plans be implemented by member states of the UN, but realistically, such a document is as good as it gets, given the need for political consensus and the wide disparity of wealth capabilities between the member states.
I was very fortunate in that both the Straits Times and TODAY were willing to consider and publish commentaries on this issue, and both of these op-ed’s were supported by the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health. But it is a long road to further raise awareness of antimicrobial resistance and antibiotic stewardship in Singapore, as well as foster good antibiotic prescription practices among both doctors and the public. It will be even harder to tackle the issue of antibiotic use as growth promoters in food animals here, or at least change consumption practices significantly.