Uppsala Health Summit to focus on behavioral changes, antimicrobial resistance

Antimicrobial resistance is an urgent global threat to human and animal health. This year's Uppsala Health Summit, which will take place online on 15-18 March, will discuss how behaviour change across various sectors of society can slow down this worrying trend.

Excessive and incorrect use of medicines for humans and animals, and inadequate hygiene in healthcare, are some of the major factors behind the development and spread of antimicrobial resistance.

Widespread antimicrobial resistance has consequences for the entire health and medical care sector. Cancer therapies, organ transplants and childbirth, for example, are more risky when infections can no longer be slowed by antibiotics. People in low-income countries with weak healthcare systems are particularly vulnerable when common bacterial infections and parasites become increasingly difficult to deal with.

Uppsala Health Summit will bring together experts from many areas of science and practice to discuss how individual behaviour and organisational norms and cultures should be changed to save our medicines and ensure that they are available when really needed.

"We are now in a critical phase where the development of new antibiotics has long since ground to a halt while we are still seeing these life-saving drugs being used incorrectly," says Otto Cars, Professor of Infectious Diseases at Uppsala University and founder of the ReAct network, which is a co-organiser of the summit. "What we need now is strong political leadership that addresses the problem by taking a holistic approach. We need to create an understanding in society of what is required at different levels and by different actors, and a realisation that we can all play a part by our choices and behaviours."

The meeting includes plenary lectures that are open to everyone and workshops for invited experts from around the world. Some of the questions to be discussed include how to communicate with various target groups about antimicrobial resistance so that more people understand the risks and how they can contribute to change; how the food industry can help customers make antibiotic-smart, sustainable choices in the shops; and what veterinary medicine and human medicine can learn from each other about protection against infection.

Although awareness about antimicrobial resistance is growing, there are still many misconceptions,"  "This is a complex subject that needs to be explained to different target groups in different ways. To communicate in the right way and have an impact, we need to involve more behavioral scientists and social scientists, and we need strong political leadership to push this issue in all relevant contexts."

Ulf Magnusson, Professor of Veterinary Medicine, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and Chair of Uppsala Health Summit Programme Committee.

The speakers include Professor Dame Sally Davies, UK Special Envoy on Antimicrobial Resistance, Sweden's Minister for Health and Social Affairs Lena Hallengren, Dr Hanan Balkhy, who leads World Health Organisation efforts on antimicrobial resistance, and Dr Eldar Shafir, Professor of Behavioural Science at Princeton University, USA. Dr Franck Berthe from the World Bank will speak on economic tools for reducing the use of antibiotics.

As vaccines play an important role in reducing the transmission of disease and hence the use of antibiotics and other pharmaceutical products, there will be a session on how to manage the growing opposition to vaccines in the world. This will include an interview with the journalists behind the Sveriges Television documentary "Vaccine Warriors" (Vaccinkrigarna).

In conjunction with the summit, a report will be launched that has been produced as background for the conversations that will take place. The report gives a broad and up-to-date overview of the changes that should be made in trade, health services, the pharmaceutical industry, the livestock sector and the environment. It presents arguments on ways in which everyone can contribute, whether they are a patient, a prescribing physician, a farmer, a veterinary surgeon, a pharmacist, a healthcare worker, a politician or a consumer.

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