A new report suggests clinicians, public health professionals, and journalists need to rethink the way they talk about antimicrobial resistance to increase public understanding and engagement and promote action by policy makers.

The report, released today by UK-based philanthropy organization the Wellcome Trust, concludes that while antibiotic resistance has gained political traction in recent years, few concrete steps have been taken, in part because the public is not championing the issue and forcing governments to act. And one of the reasons for the lack of public engagement is that stakeholders haven’t effectively communicated the dangers of antimicrobial resistance in a way that makes sense or conveys the urgency of the problem.

“The public do not see the true scale and severity of antimicrobial resistance, and therefore it is not an issue the public is calling for political action on,” the authors of the report write.

The problems? Too much technical jargon, too many ways of describing the impact of antibiotic resistance, disjointed media coverage, and a social media conversation that’s dominated by technical experts. The messengers, the report concludes, need to reframe how the public views antimicrobial resistance by adopting a more universal, concise, and coherent approach that emphasizes the immediacy of the problem.

Credit: iStock, MacXever

Low understanding, widespread misconceptions

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