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Antimicrobial resistance action plan losing steam

Exactly a year after the State launched the comprehensive Kerala Antimicrobial Resistance Strategic Action Plan (KARSAP), there are worries that the project could be losing its momentum.

It was on October 25 last year that KARSAP was launched, making Kerala the first State in the country to come out with an action plan to tackle antimicrobial resistance AMR, an emerging public health concern across health and allied sectors, on the One Health platform.

“A year later, many of the one-year goals — such as antibiotic stewardship programmes in hospitals, infection control protocols and setting up an AMR surveillance laboratory network — have been achieved. Where we seem to have failed is in ‘Awareness creation and Knowledge,’ the first strategic priority in our action plan,” a senior health official said. Another major issue is that the State government is yet to allocate a budget for the implementation of KARSAP.

Strategic priority

KARSAP’s first strategic priority spoke about how important it was to improve the awareness among the public, schoolchildren, medical fraternity and health personnel on antibiotic abuse, antimicrobial resistance, antibiotics in food, labelling of food derived from animals, etc. It spoke about investing in creating educational resources for each group and organising massive awareness programmes on the One Health approach so that the importance of AMR reaches people.

“We are yet to engage with the public and a chunk of medical fraternity too remains unaware of what the State has envisaged under KARSAP. Unless we convey clearly to the public that antibiotics are vital for us and that its rational use is what is aimed at, we may play right into the hands of quacks and other regressive forces,” he added.

KARSAP is founded on the platform of One Health, a fairly recent global concept that the health of humans is inextricably linked to the health of animals and environment. Officials point out that while various initiatives have been kicked off in the animal husbandry, fisheries and poultry sectors, environment sector initiatives for AMR surveillance have been lagging.

Efforts towards strengthening AMR surveillance in the community through capacity building and networking with laboratories in the private sector had resulted in nearly 20 NABH/NABL-accredited labs from the private sector joining the State AMR surveillance network (KARSNET). These labs are expected to provide regular reports from next month so that ground-level data on AMR pattern from across the State can be obtained. A proper review of the first year of KARSAP could be the need of the hour so that the programme can be put right back on top of the State’s public health agenda.

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