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Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a global health crisis that threatens our ability to combat infectious diseases effectively. Despite the tireless efforts of researchers, doctors, and advocates, drug-resistant infections continue to harm more people each year. Decision-makers across politics, business, and civil society are increasingly aware of the scale of the problem, but something is amiss. The way we discuss AMR needs a radical shift.

Communicators must recognize that many individuals encounter this topic for the first time. – Maryn McKenna, journalist, author

Overcoming AMR requires not only scientific breakthroughs but also public support. To achieve this, we must help the public understand the problem and recognize the urgent need for action. However, communicating about AMR is no simple task. Public understanding of antimicrobial resistance and its impact remains limited. One of the most consistent challenges surrounding AMR is effective communication.

The AMR Jargon Trap

AMR is often referred to as a shorthand – a convenient label for a complex issue. But herein lies the problem: the people we aim to engage don’t necessarily know this shorthand. “When we use terms like ‘AMR’, we assume familiarity that may not exist. Communicators must recognize that many individuals encounter this topic for the first time. We cannot take for granted that they understand the intricacies of antimicrobial resistance,” said Maryn McKenna, journalist and author at the recent event “Communicating Antimicrobial Resistance,” organized by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and the European Commission Directorate General for Health and Food Safety.

Rethinking our approach

To bridge this gap, communicators must simplify complexity. Here are some strategies from the event speakers.

  1. Plain language: Let’s abandon jargon-heavy language. Instead of “antimicrobial resistance,” consider saying “drug-resistant infections.” Clear, straightforward terms resonate better with the public.
  2. Real-life stories: Personal narratives humanize the issue. Share stories of individuals affected by AMR – patients, families, and healthcare workers. These stories create empathy and drive home the urgency.
  3. Visual aids: Infographics, videos, and visual representations can convey complex concepts effectively. A simple graphic illustrating how AMR develops can be more impactful than pages of text.
  4. Engage diverse audiences: Recognize that different groups – from policymakers to schoolchildren – need tailored messages. Customizing communication ensures broader reach.

The Role of Communicators

Communicators often fall short in simplifying complexity. We must rise to the challenge. In the fight against AMR, our words matter. By communicating clearly, we empower individuals to take action. Let’s break down the barriers of complexity and ensure that AMR becomes a topic everyone understands and acts upon.

Read also: The Term AMR Not Suitable For Public Health Communication

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