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A team including NDM researchers aims to co-create equitable and sustainable solutions to manage antimicrobial resistance, using a conceptual framework developed by the International Labour Organisation to guide climate action.

Dr Sonia Lewycka, Epidemiologist at NDM’s Oxford University Clinical Research Unit in Hanoi, and Prof Phaik Yeong Cheah, Professor of Global Health and Bioethics at NDM’s Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit, will lead a multidisciplinary social science and humanities programme centred around ‘Just Transitions’, funded by the British Academy.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is among our most significant global health concerns. In 2019, 1.27 million deaths were attributed to resistant bacterial infections, and by 2050, it is predicted AMR will cost upwards of $100 USD trillion, accounting for 10 million deaths worldwide. Antimicrobial resistance transcends borders, affecting communities in every region of the world. Containing the spread of AMR, and avoiding a future where antimicrobials no longer work and common infections become potentially lethal, will require urgent and system-wide change.

Thus far, research on AMR has focused on technology development, surveillance and evaluation, with little consideration given to the broader social drivers of AMR. ‘Just Transitions’ for AMR brings together social science and humanities researchers from diverse backgrounds and differentially affected regions to discuss what a just and equitable transition will mean for containing and mitigating AMR.

The project will explore how the ‘Just Transitions’ framework could be adapted and used in the context of AMR and how synergies with climate action and nature-based solutions could be leveraged. The ‘Just Transitions’ framework represents a different way of approaching systemic change, placing importance on effective social dialogue as a way to minimize challenges and maximize social and economic opportunities.

Dr Lewycka explains: ‘Our aim is to mobilise the power of interdisciplinary thinking and multiple perspectives to develop a Just Transitions framework for AMR, opening new avenues of enquiry that allow us to identify and define what will be needed to mitigate AMR while also minimizing its negative impact on health, ecosystems, the economy and society. AMR is not simply a biological phenomenon, but a complex social problem’ and ‘meeting this challenge will require innovative methodologies but also global coordination and mobilisation of resources.’

Alongside its core team of researchers, key stakeholders (policymakers, civil society groups, intergovernmental organizations, local community leaders, and industry) will also be actively engaged and involved in the co-creation of knowledge, that will then be fed directly into global AMR policy discourse. Six global meetings will be convened at the British Academy over the three-year project period with regional dialogues in Asia, Africa and Latin America. The ‘Just Transitions for AMR’ project is supported by the British Academy and was one of three projects awarded £1.5 million under the new Global Convening programmes.