Urgent Response to Growing Antibiotic Resistance Needed, Health Strategy Group Reports

April 13, 2020

The Aspen Health Strategy Group examined how to avert another emerging crisis in the United States

Contact: Jon Purves
Senior Media Relations Manager
The Aspen Institute

Washington, DC, April 13, 2020 – A new report released by the Aspen Health Strategy Group (AHSG), an Aspen Institute initiative, calls for a comprehensive response to the growing crisis of antimicrobial resistance—the loss of antibiotic effectiveness due to overuse that threatens human health and the practice of medicine as we know it. The report, titled “Addressing Antimicrobial Resistance,” is the result of a year-long study involving 24 nationally recognized leaders and experts from the health care sector with input from the general public. The group is co-chaired by Kathleen Sebelius and Tommy G. Thompson, both former governors and former US Secretaries of Health and Human Services.

The report can be read online here.

“Antimicrobial resistance puts every single person at risk of disease or death. The federal government should designate a single body to oversee the nation’s response to the growing threat and to serve as a point of accountability for progress in implementing that response,” the group said in a joint statement.

The report includes “5 Big Ideas” to address antimicrobial resistance, accompanied by four background papers prepared by experts on the subject matter that informed the group’s decisions. Among its key recommendations, the AHSG report calls for:

  • A comprehensive commitment by health systems to antibiotic stewardship supported by measurement, accreditation, regulation and payment policies.
  • Adoption of a “One Health” response that incorporates animal, human, and environmental health.
  • New strategies to support development of antibiotics with increased investments in basic science and novel approaches to financing that overcome the market failures currently impeding drug development.
  • A major investment in research on the prevalence and consequences of antibiotic resistance.
  • A campaign of public engagement to reduce unnecessary demand for and inappropriate use of antibiotics.

In 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that 35,000 deaths and at least 2.8 million illnesses each year in the US are due to antibiotic resistance.  Growing rates of resistance threaten our ability to benefit from clinical advances made over the past decades. The report notes that significant progress has been made, from improved infection control in hospitals to dramatic reduction in antibiotic use in farm animals.  Still, the threat continues to grow and much more needs to be done.

“Antimicrobial resistance is a global problem that requires a global solution with leadership from the United States,” said co-chair Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “US government agencies from health to environment to agriculture can and must play a role in addressing this pressing issue.”

“Antimicrobial resistance threatens our ability to perform routine surgeries and treat cancer,” added co-chair Secretary Tommy G. Thompson. “We must invest in new diagnostics and treatments while we conserve the antibiotics we currently have.”

This is the fourth AHSG publication, following annual reports on end-of life-care, the opioid epidemic, and chronic disease. It was edited by Alan R. Weil, Editor-in-Chief of Health Affairs, and Rachel Dolan, who worked at Health Affairs at the time the report was written. The report will be widely distributed to policy makers in the health and related fields. AHSG members also commit to examining steps that can be taken in their own institutions and organizations.

The mission of the Aspen Health Strategy Group is to promote improvements in policy and practice by providing leadership on important and complex health issues. The group is comprised of 24 senior leaders across influential sectors including health, business, media, and technology, and is part of the Health, Medicine and Society Program at the Aspen Institute.

The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit organization committed to realizing a free, just, and equitable society.  Founded in 1949, the Institute drives change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve the most important challenges facing the United States and the world. The Institute is based in Washington, DC and Aspen, Colorado.  It also has offices in New York City and an international network of partners. For more information, visit www.aspeninstitute.org.


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