Antimicrobial Resistance – The Time to Act Is Now

Nov 23, 2021 - Viewpoints

Guest Blog by Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer

Antimicrobial Resistance – The Time to Act Is Now

Nov 23, 2021 - Viewpoints

Guest Blog by Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer

For the past year and a half, our collective attention has been focussed on the COVID-19 pandemic. While the pandemic is not over, we also need to pay attention to another global health threat – antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (WAAW) runs from November 18-24. The event is spearheaded by the World Health Organization (WHO) and aims to make antimicrobial resistance (AMR) a globally recognized issue. The theme this year is “Spread Awareness, Stop Resistance.” The 2021 campaign calls on policymakers, health professionals, and the public to acknowledge that everyone can be an AMR champion. Campaign participants are encouraged to raise awareness about what AMR is, and promote family, workplace, community, and/or government action that can help slow the spread of AMR.

AMR and One Health

AMR occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites develop the ability to defeat the drugs designed to kill them. Although AMR is a natural phenomenon, it is accelerated by the overuse of antimicrobial drugs, such as antibiotics, in both humans and animals.

In Canada, AMR is already a significant burden on human health, health care and the economy – causing almost 15 deaths a day and costing our health care system about $1.4 billion annually.

However, the causes and impacts of AMR are not limited to human and animal health. AMR also spans plant and environmental health, which add even greater complexity to this issue. Solutions to AMR therefore require a collaborative, multi-sectoral, transdisciplinary approach. The “One Health” approach recognises that the health of people, animals and our shared environment are all connected.

AMR champions: What can health professionals and individuals do?

There are many steps that all health professionals can take to help prevent AMR.

Examples include:

  • Use the various prescribing aides and guidelines at your disposal to assist you in using antibiotics wisely. Examples include Choosing Wisely’s resource kits that can help clinicians and patients engage in conversations about unnecessary antibiotic use.
  • Properly test and diagnose patients as appropriate when prescribing antibiotics and other antimicrobial drugs.
  • If you suspect a viral infection, discuss with patients that antibiotics are not effective in treating viral conditions. Consider delayed prescriptions where appropriate. This is a back-up prescription that is not dispensed immediately. The prescription can be used if the symptoms worsen.

We can all take steps as individuals to limit the spread of infections and stop the rapid rise of AMR. Examples include:

  • Use antibiotics and other antimicrobials only when prescribed by a certified health professional (this includes oral health professionals).
  • Follow the prescription as instructed.
  • Do not share antibiotics or other antimicrobials, or use leftover ones.
  • Prevent infections by keeping hands cleans, preparing food hygienically, stay home when sick, practicing safe sex, and keeping vaccinations up to date.

We can all become champions of AMR prevention in our families, workplace, and communities. Let’s continue to spread awareness on this important issue, because the time to act is now.

In 2019 I released the public health spotlight report on AMR titled Handle with Care: Preserving Antibiotics Now and Into the Future. The report helps us understand what the drivers of the problem are and how each of us can take action to help ensure the antimicrobial drugs we have stay effective.

For more information on AMR, I invite you to visit the Antimicrobial Resistance page on

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Hashtags: #WAAW #WAAW21 #AntimicrobialResistance #AMR #HandleWithCare