Press Room

State and Territorial Health Agencies Play Critical Role in Addressing Antimicrobial Resistance

(June 2, 2015) Arlington, Virginia - As the threat of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) rises throughout the world, the White House has convened more than 150 major food companies, retailers, and human and animal health stakeholders to commit to implementing changes over the next five years to slow the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, detect resistant strains, preserve the efficacy of our existing antibiotics, and prevent the spread of resistant infections. In recognition of today’s White House Forum on Antibiotic Stewardship, ASTHO commits to supporting the state and territorial health agency role in operationalizing the White House’s five-year National Strategy for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria.

“State health agencies are poised to play a crucial role in the prevention of antimicrobial-resistant organisms due to our long history with infectious disease surveillance and control,” says Arkansas Director and State Health Officer Nathaniel Smith, who represents ASTHO at the forum.

Antimicrobial resistance is one of the most pressing public health concerns today, and there is a critical need for comprehensive programs to address this threat. CDC’s report Antibiotic resistance threats in the United States, 2013 provides an overview of the burden that AMR poses to the United States, including over two million illnesses and 23,000 deaths annually.

“If we're not careful, we will soon be in a post-antibiotic era,” CDC Director Tom Frieden says. “For some patients and some microbes, we are already there.”

State and territorial health agencies play an essential role in addressing resistance because they are responsible for protecting patients across the healthcare system and serve as a bridge between healthcare organizations and the community. With adequate capacity and resources, they can help fight AMR by coordinating and facilitating prevention activities, monitoring resistance across the state, leveraging existing partnerships and resources, and developing policies to improve antimicrobial stewardship through prescribing and use best practices.  

ASTHO’s stewardship report Combating Antibiotic Resistance: Policies to Promote Antimicrobial Stewardship Programs and web pages describe current state activities across the spectrum of healthcare settings and present a range of opportunities for health agencies to develop or enhance stewardship policies and activities. In a July 2013 survey of healthcare-associated infection coordinators, 69 percent of respondents reported conducting antimicrobial stewardship activities. A May 2014 inventory of state health agency activities found that 33 percent have conducted antimicrobial stewardship needs assessments and 52 percent have partnered to provide antimicrobial stewardship education.

State and territorial health agencies are critical to addressing AMR and implementing stewardship activities. They can capitalize on new opportunities through the National Strategy, establishing themselves as leaders in this area and building capacity to engage in antimicrobial stewardship needs assessments, education, and implementation. These activities will protect patients across the continuum of care as well as the community, and will preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics for the future. ASTHO is honored to further this work through the White House Forum on Antibiotic Stewardship and supporting the National Strategy.

See ASTHO's blog StatePublicHealth.org for the full article on state and territorial health agencies’ AMR activities.

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ASTHO is the national nonprofit organization representing the public health agencies of the United States, the U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia, as well as the more than 100,000 public health professionals these agencies employ. ASTHO members, the chief health officials of these jurisdictions, are dedicated to formulating and influencing sound public health policy and to ensuring excellence in state-based public health practice.

Contact: Scott Briscoe (571) 527‐3173; cell (703) 328-2761; sbriscoe@astho.org. Follow us on Twitter.