20 November 2017 | Manila, Philippines

Leaders of the ten ASEAN Member States (AMS) have agreed to adopt the “One Health” approach to tackle the pressing issue on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) that will ensure a holistic, multi-sectoral, and multi-disciplinary approach in combating AMR at the regional and country levels.

The Philippine Department of Health (DOH), which took the lead in crafting the declaration, said that the adoption of the document is a historic achievement in ASEAN that will contribute to the ASEAN vision of a healthy, caring, sustainable and productive region that is resistant to emerging health threats and has universal access to health care.

Globally, AMR has emerged as one of the serious challenges of the modern world with an alarming increase in rates of drug resistant infections observed across different regions and countries because of the inappropriate use of antimicrobials in the health, veterinary and agriculture sectors.

In 2014, the World Health Organization (WHO) already raised the alarm that without effective action by governments and global leaders, the world could face a return to the post-antibiotic era where drug resistant infections would overtake cancer as the leading cause of human suffering and death by 2050, threatening the gains achieved with the discovery of antibiotics in the 20th century and the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals, in particular, attaining good health and well-being (goal 3).

The ASEAN community quickly recognized the importance of taking action against AMR with its increasing incidence in the region such as drug-resistant tuberculosis, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA), Macrolide-resistant Streptococcus Pneumoniae, Multi-drug resistant enteric pathogens and Extremely drug-resistant Gram-negative Bacilli in both hospital and community settings.

“Antimicrobial resistance poses a serious threat not only in the Philippines but also the whole [of] ASEAN with major implications in health, trade, agriculture, the economy and global security. The Department of Health is very pleased to lead in this initiative as our main contribution in regional health cooperation during this important period of our Chairmanship. DOH is ready to share our country’s experience in implementing the One Health Approach with other ASEAN member states that is embodied in our National Action Plan to combat Antimicrobial Resistance,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said.

In 2015, DOH formulated the National Action Plan to Combat AMR which brought together key partner agencies such as the Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) in the fight against AMR. The action plan outlined the country’s strategies which focused on the following core areas: (1) leadership and governance; (2) surveillance and laboratory capacity; (3) access to essential medicines of assured quality; (4) awareness and promotion; (5) infection prevention and control; (6) rational antimicrobial use among humans and animals; and (7) research and development.

At the regional level, the Philippine Government initiated the crafting of the ASEAN Leaders’ Declaration on AMR which reflects the commitment of the AMS in fighting AMR through the involvement of all relevant stakeholders on areas such as human health, animal health, agriculture, food, trade, and environment sectors. The initial consultative meeting attended by the AMS technical officers was hosted by the Philippines on 10-11 May 2017. Consequently, the Declaration was endorsed to the Seniors Official Meeting on Health Development (SOMHD), the ASEAN Health Ministers Meeting (AHMM), the Senior Officials Committee for ASCC (SOCA) and the ASEAN Socio-cultural Community Council (ASCC) Meeting.

With the political commitment to combat AMR gathered from the Heads of the AMS, the Declaration was finally adopted on 13 November 2017 in time for the celebration of the 31st ASEAN Summit and Related Summits. The AMS also agreed to align their respective AMR initiatives in order to foster an environment that will enable the sharing of best practices across countries.

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