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WAAW Blog: Antibiotic Guardian: an example of social movement and public narrative to engage and mobilise collective action to tackle antimicrobial resistance

Amy Read, Trainee Consultant Clinical Scientist

I have worked in Clinical Microbiology Laboratories for the past 20 years and have witnessed first-hand increasing antibiotic resistance and the emergence of ‘superbugs’ such as methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), extended spectrum beta-lactamases (ESBL) and glycopeptide resistant enterococci (GRE).  Being a mum of two boys, I fear that unless everyone recognises and plays their part in the fight against antibiotic resistance, we will face a future where antibiotics will no longer be effective against common and life-threatening infections. We are falling further behind in the fight against serious infections such as pneumonia and tuberculosis (TB). Without effective antibiotics, we cannot support patients receiving chemotherapy who are susceptible to infections. Without antibiotics, routine surgical procedures such as organ transplants and caesarean sections would carry an increased risk. Without antibiotics. more than three million surgical operations and cancer treatments a year could become life threatening. As a microbiologist, this potential future of untreatable infections terrifies me.

When I was given an assignment as part of a leadership and management course to write about how social movement and public narratives can be used engage and mobilise collective action, my mind immediately went to antibiotic resistance. I focussed particularly the wonderful work of the Antibiotic Guardian campaign.  The website features many personal stories of how individuals have been affected by antibiotic resistance.  By using storytelling/ public narrative, we are able to engage more people than through facts alone. Storytelling engages with individuals’ emotions and can motivate people to come together for change. Storytelling can make complex subjects such as antibiotic resistance easier to understand and brings the message to a larger audience. Stories can pave the way for collective action honing in on the action needed, the urgency that change/action happens now, how we can transform the present into a moment of challenge, hope and choice and can generate a sense of community through shared values and experiences.

Antibiotic resistance is a global problem. It does not respect borders, cultures, gender or wealth. It is everyone’s problem, both complex and multifaceted. One crucial action we can take is to raise public awareness and understanding. Through its public education and pledge programme, the Antibiotic Guardian campaign is actively creating a powerful social movement where individuals are committing to action, aligning themselves with others that share the same valves and aims and spreading awareness of the threat posed by antibiotic resistance.

Anyone can be an Antibiotic Guardian and everyone should be an Antibiotic Guardian. Everyone has a part to play. Please visit the Antibiotic Guardian webpage to become an Antibiotic Guardian and make a pledge.

To discover more about public narrative and social movement, read my article in the Healthcare Science Leadership Journal Spring 2022.

https://www.ahcs.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/HCS-Leadership-Journal-Spring-Edition-2022.pdf