Alex Azar speaks at the AMR Challenge launch event.

Alex Azar speaks at the AMR Challenge launch event.

During the U.N. General Assembly this week, the U.S. government announced a new effort to accelerate the fight against antimicrobial resistance. The AMR Challenge, led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, launched Tuesday with dozens of commitments already pledged by associations, companies, health care providers and governments to be a part of the yearlong challenge.

APHA has signed on committing to encourage member engagement with antimicrobial resistance and promote the One Health approach.

At the launch event, health leaders called on partners from every sector to join the challenge, which divides antimicrobial resistance into five key actionable areas: tracking and data; infection prevention and control; antibiotic use; environment and sanitation; and vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics.

U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar explained that drug resistant bacteria infect 2 million people a year in the United States alone. He called on partners and the health community to recognize the immediacy of the problem, saying “the threat of AMR is real and looming. Part of the promise of modern medicine itself is at stake.”

Madlen Davies, health and science editor at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, shared her experience documenting the individual human impact of antimicrobial resistance. Her reporting details how superbugs have claimed the lives of mothers and babies in Malawi, infected children with drug-resistant tuberculosis in India and claimed the lives of patients in England’s hospitals.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, World Health Organization director general, explained the global scope of the challenge. “In some countries, up to 82 percent of bacterial infections are resistant to one of the most commonly used antibiotics…. This is a human tragedy that we cannot and should not tolerate.”

Tedros emphasized that prevention is key to addressing antimicrobial resistance. “Research and development alone is not the answer,” he said. “We need to take cross-sectoral action to address the root cause of the problem. For example, we can prevent infections in the first place with improved sanitation and hygiene.”

APHA members can learn more about participating in the AMR Challenge on the CDC website.