i(AM)Responsible: A Nationwide Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) Education Network
Antimicrobial resistant infections have been recognized worldwide as a significant threat to public health in recent years. Researchers have responded to this growing crisis with wide-ranging efforts to characterize antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in the microbial populations found in healthcare settings, the environment, food production and processing settings, and livestock production systems. Unfortunately, there remains a good deal of uncertainty around the exact cause(s) and factors impacting the proliferation of AMR. As new research continues to help us understand and characterize AMR populations and potential risks associated with them, developing a nationwide capacity for conducting effective scientific outreach and education on this topic has become critical.
In summer 2018, a nationwide team of research and extension professionals was assembled to design and deliver extension programming on AMR. Named the “iAMResponsible Project”, this effort is intended to convey that everyone has an obligation to understand AMR, learn how they can adapt practices to mitigate their potential risks and contributions related to AMR, and preserve the efficacy of antibiotics for future generations. Led by Nebraska Extension’s Amy Schmidt, an associate professor focused on manure management and responsible livestock production, team members represent expertise in livestock production, veterinary medicine, food safety, food processing, communication strategies, and environmental management (Figure 1).
Essential to this project has been the creation of a library of research-based resources on AMR that form a foundation for developing and delivering outreach and educational materials to intended audiences. Often, when controversial topics like AMR are discussed on social media and in the press, there is little effort to support claims with scientific data. A unique aspect of this project is our focus on only sharing information that can be directly traced to scientific research. Using the ever-growing content library, graduate student Mara Zelt has developed nearly 200 infographics for dissemination by social media and extension programming, each directing readers to a scientific article supporting the graphical information.
Thus far, the principal activities of the project have involved curating, translating and disseminating agricultural-, environmental- and food safety-related AMR research outcomes via our team’s Facebook and Twitter accounts (Figure 2). At a recent nationwide conference focused on manure management, a special session titled, One Health: Policies, Practices and Priorities to Address Antimicrobial Resistance, was sponsored by the iAMResponsible Project team and featured speakers discussing natural and human-impacted contributions to the AMR crisis.
iAMResponsible team members observed that there was a growing awareness among the general public of “antimicrobial resistance” and the associated human health risks, which inspired numerous agency-, industry- and organization-led efforts on AMR. The iAMR project plans to cooperate with these related efforts to leverage resources and amplify dissemination of AMR-related educational information. However, it is evident that misinformation and ambiguous terminology contribute to misunderstandings about risks to human health associated with “AMR.” While not a disease itself, antimicrobial resistance is contributing to widespread incidences of untreatable microbial infections. Therefore, communicating the level of risk associated with AMR in clinical and nonclinical settings is recognized as an essential component to be addressed through this outreach project.
Going forward the iAMResponsible project team will continue efforts to identify educational needs, produce and curate research-based content to improve public awareness about AMR, and improve access to research-based information about potential AMR-related food safety risks. In the coming year, public awareness efforts will be coupled with surveys of Nebraskan producer attitudes toward AMR and antibiotic use, and an evaluation of audience needs to identify gaps in informational materials and outreach methods. The team will utilize these results to further refine outreach efforts towards improving the adoption of practices to mitigate potential AMR-related risks.
To learn more about the iAMResponsible project find us online:
This article was reviewed by Amy Schmidt