Effective Health Communication: Drug Resistant Infectious Super Bugs
Lecia Bushak’s writing in Medical Daily (Gonorrhea May Soon Become Drug-Resistant, Untreatable) reported that the Chief Medical Officer in the United Kingdom (UK) recently warned that:
“’Gonorrhea is at risk of becoming an untreatable disease due to the continuing emergence of antimicrobial resistance,’ Professor Dame Sally Davies, chief medical officer in the U.K., said in a letter to general practitioners and pharmacies. Due to reports that gonorrhea is developing resistance very quickly, and the ‘super-gonorrhea’ outbreak earlier this year, Davies is emphasizing the importance of prescribing the correct drugs. Gonorrhea has rapidly acquired resistance to new antibiotics, leaving few alternatives to the current recommendations,’ Davies wrote. ‘It is therefore extremely important that suboptimal treatment does not occur.’”
“Gonorrhea is a sexually-transmitted disease that can be transmitted to anyone who is sexually active, generally infecting the genitals, throat, or rectum. Symptoms of the disease involve green or yellow discharge from genitals, as well as pain while urinating. Sometimes there are no symptoms, and a person may spread the disease to others without realizing it. Typically, gonorrhea is treated with one or a combination of drugs, but once an antibiotic becomes more popular among patients, it loses its potency. Bacteria are constantly evolving and mutating, so it’s only a matter of time before certain strains develop resistance to common antibiotics.”
Antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea is not the only potential pathogen with this problem. Antibiotics are important and helpful drugs. Misuse and overuse of these drugs, however, have contributed to a phenomenon known as antibiotic resistance. This resistance develops when potentially harmful bacteria change in a way that reduces or eliminates the effectiveness of antibiotics.
According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), antibiotic-resistant germs cause more than 2 million illnesses and at least 23,000 deaths each year in the U.S. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) says that antibiotics are powerful drugs, but they are not the cure for all that ails you. Antibiotics, also known as antimicrobial drugs, are drugs that fight infections caused by bacteria. Almost all important bacterial infections in the United States and throughout the world are now becoming resistant to antibiotics. Antibiotic resistance has been called one of the world’s most pressing public health problems. The smart use of antibiotics is the key to controlling the spread of resistance.
Getting the Word Out
The misuse of antibiotics has contributed to one of the world’s most pressing public health problems today — antibiotic resistance. The FDA has teamed up with the CDC and other health care professional, government, academic, international and industry partners to create a communication campaign aimed at both health care professionals and patients to help mitigate the challenges of antibiotic resistance infectious agents. The “Get Smart” effort includes an annual education/promotion week.
According to the WHO, preventive measures for health risk mitigation include effective health communication efforts informing people, especially health care professionals and members of the affected public, of the dangers of inadequate treatment measures and failure to complete all courses of prescribed medication.
According to the WHO, effective communication is a key aspect in preventing and managing infectious disease outbreaks. This includes plans to inform health workers of the key aspects about antibiotic resistance strains that have been identified, what clinical features to look out for and what is the optimal treatment regime. Further, effective communication is essential to ensure correct treatment, to verify that patients are being given appropriate antibiotic treatment and that they follow all directions (including the completion of all courses of medicine). Patient care information must be successfully transmitted, received, understood and verified as implemented. Health and risk communication preparedness is an essential component for antibiotic resistance strain mitigation. We have to know what works best, how it should be implemented and what sorts of messages work for which audiences. It is important to have both the tools and techniques of communication ready, tested and validated. Successful communication depends on the technology and channels working so that you can make and receive the calls no matter how dire and fast-moving the health threat is spreading.
The importance of having a well-designed, tested and validated health risk communication plan is critical for facing the challenges of informing both health care professionals and gaining compliance with patients who should be following their treatment regime.
Scientific and medical knowledge is an important key. It is, however, the application of appropriate knowledge, research and subject matter expertise that helps ensure that one makes the right call at the right time to the right people. If you can’t successfully communicate these key messages, then knowing the right answers doesn’t make much of a difference in managing this emerging challenge.
Communication is, as always, the key to managing this emerging challenge.