Drug-resistant bacteria kill 1.27m people annually, more than HIV and malaria combined. Deaths are disproportionately concentrated in low- and middle-income countries, especially in children under 5 years old. Sustainable Development Goals are threatened by this ongoing toll. It is evident that determined and well-coordinated international actions are needed to tackle this global health threat from a One Health perspective. While antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is often seen as a technical issue of drug development, solutions to this problem require serious engagement with those working in the social sciences.
On October 6 and 7, social scientists from around the world met in Copenhagen with the goal of establishing a coherent evidence base to guide international and national efforts to stem AMR and its impact The workshop titled, Solutions to AMR from the Social Sciences, took place at the University of Copenhagen, and was hosted by CeBIL (University of Copenhagen, Denmark), and the Global Strategy Lab (York University and University of Ottawa, Canada), in collaboration with the Social Innovation on Drug Resistance Program (Boston University, USA) and the AMR Centre (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK).
The workshop held multiple sessions discussing the future of AMR Social Sciences in the context of the pandemic instrument negotiations and the potential development of an Independent Panel on Evidence for Action Against Antimicrobial Resistance. The first session was from LSHTM’s Clare Chandler, taking stock of the growing contributions of social science researchers to addressing the global challenge of antimicrobial resistance. The second session was hosted by Dr. Susan Rogers Van Katwyk, where she spoke about how the pandemic treaty that is being currently negotiated through the World Health Organization could simultaneously be helpful for addressing AMR. Susan also made a note on how small tweaks to a pandemic treaty could be transformative for Antimicrobial Resistance.
Another panel focused on how social sciences can reframe the challenges posed by Antimicrobial Resistance. Speakers included Esmita Charani, Michèle Palkovits and Jens Seeberg. Speaker Esmita Charani presented her empirical work that shows nearly all research funding collaborations in this area are focused on new technology development rather than social innovations that address the underlying root drivers that accelerate AMR.
Michèle Palkovits, policy advisor at GSL, presented research she undertook for the World Health Organization on antibiotic access and use in migrant and refugee populations. Jens Seeberg’s presentation focused on shared axes of vulnerability. He argued there is much we can learn from the COVID-19 pandemic in addressing the ongoing AMR crisis.
The second day started with Director Steven J. Hoffman and a high level debate on how policy makers use evidence to design AMR strategies. The debate was accompanied by representatives from Ghana’s Ministry of Food and Agriculture, William Adu, Ghana’s Ministry of Health, Saviour Yevutsey,, Zambia’s National Public Health Institute, Otridah Kapona, Zambia’s Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock, Geoffrey Muuka, and Africa CDC’s AMR and One Health Program Coordinator, Yewande Alimi.
Overall, the INAMRSS network and their collaborators call for:
Bacteria, fungi, and other microbial threats to be included in the pandemic preparedness instrument.
The independent panel on evidence for action on amr is urgently needed to synthesize evidence, and prioritize the scientific work needed over the next decade to understand and respond to microbial threats.
The clear need for these global processes to be responsive to diverse policy needs.
Future action on amr should work to encompass the full range of social science disciplines.
Negotiations for a Pandemic Treaty that includes policies to manage AMR; and establishing the Independent Panel on Evidence for Action on AMR (IPEA) are two key international developments that could help to meet the grand challenge that is antimicrobial resistance. Future conferences like the 2022 International Network for AMR Social Science (INAMRSS) Workshop: Solutions to AMR from the Social Sciences and collective orientation of the scholarly community, stand to address the clear need for international and interdisciplinary collaboration on AMR policy and action.