The Woolcock Institute of Medical Research

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A community-led solution to antibiotic resistance in Vietnam

Tuesday, April 04, 2023

Our researchers are tackling the growing problem of drug-resistant bacteria in Vietnam.

It is well-established that antibiotics are being over-used in Vietnam. Despite laws against selling them without a prescription, they are freely available, and doctors have been prescribing them far too readily.

As a result, common illnesses such as pneumonia or tuberculosis are making people sicker for longer. In some cases people are dying from illnesses that were once easily treatable.

In 2019, Woolcock Vietnam joined a group of leading researchers to launch the V-RESIST study. The study team worked closely with healthcare practitioners in 40 districts across Vietnam to gain an in-depth understanding of the practices that were leading to antibiotic over-use. They then worked with local communities to test solutions based on what they found.

The study uses an internationally-recognised approach – called audit and feedback – adapted to local conditions. First, healthcare managers and doctors are guided through an assessment of how antibiotics are used in their local health facilities. Feedback sessions are then held to create a common vision for what the appropriate use of antibiotics looks like for their community.

"The program has seen concrete results," says Woolcock Vietnam's Professor Greg Fox. "We've worked closely with Vietnamese authorities to develop guidelines and local approaches that can be scaled up to other parts of Vietnam. We now need to take the findings of our research and apply them across the country if the problem of anti-microbial resistance is to be addressed fully."

A key goal of the program is behavioural change. "Changing the attitudes and behaviour of people in the communities is very important," says V-RESIST Study Manager Pham Ngoc Yen. "I hope that we can continue this pathway and do more with the communities. I think that there is still a very big gap, and we need to fill it."

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