Timed to coincide with World Antibiotic Awareness Week (WAAW), BMJ Opinion recently published a thought-provoking article outlining key benefits of public awareness campaigns.1

Speaking specifically on raising public awareness of antibiotic resistance (AMR), the authors point out that this topic is often described in a manner that is perceived to be confusing, not only with regards to the level of scientific complexity but also due to a lack of clarity regarding who exactly is responsible for action. Furthermore it is clear that one-size-fits-all messages (even those suggested by respected National bodies such as the Wellcome Trust’s article “Reframing Resistance”)2 can confuse different audiences and hamper the overall awareness effort.

Therefore it is extremely important to tailor messages according to different stakeholder groups. For example the oft-touted global forecast that by 2050 AMR will cause an additional 10M deaths per year and result in a US$100 trillion increase in healthcare costs may help policy makers compare scale of threat with other health priorities.3 However the same messages delivered to the public may not resonate as well compared to a clear articulation of the current danger and need for immediate action, and may even be perceived as scare-mongering.

With this guidance in mind, there are already some examples where AMR awareness has been delivered well. The UK’s “keep antibiotics working” campaign is a multifaceted effort targeting both healthcare professionals and the public.4 Similarly the Global Respiratory Infection Partnership has published a 5P framework emphasising the need to tackle AMR from the perspective of prevention, policy, pharmacy, prescribers and patients.5

Campaigns such as these should help the public understand that the majority of upper respiratory tract infections are self-limiting and do not require an antibiotic. By educating the public and raising awareness, this should empower the public to take control of their care and make use of OTC medicines that can relieve symptoms. By helping the public recognise that the pharmacy should be the first place to turn to for advice, this should reduce pressure on prescribers and ultimately reduce the volume of inappropriate antibiotic prescriptions.


  1. Glover R, Chandler C, Manton J and Petticrew MP. The benefits and risks of public awareness campaigns: World Antibiotic Awareness Week in context. BMJ Opinion, 2019. https://blogs.bmj.com/bmj/2019/11/18/the-benefits-and-risks-of-public-awareness-campaigns-world-antibiotic-awareness-week-in-context/
  2. Reframing resistance: how to communicate about antimicrobial resistance effectively. Wellcome Trust, 2019. https://wellcome.ac.uk/reports/reframing-antimicrobial-resistance-antibiotic-resistance
  3. O'Neill J. Review on Antimicrobial Resistance Antimicrobial Resistance: Tackling a crisis for the health and wealth of nations. London: Review on Antimicrobial Resistance. 2014. Available from: https://amr-review.org/sites/default/files/AMR%20Review%20Paper%20-%20Tackling%20a%20crisis%20for%20the%20health%20and%20wealth%20of%20nations_1.pdf
  4. Public Health England 'Keep Antibiotics Working' national campaign https://campaignresources.phe.gov.uk/resources/campaigns/58-keep-antibiotics-working/Overview
  5. Global Respiratory Infection Partnership https://www.grip-initiative.org/