Overuse of antibiotics

This week Lakes District News wrote about the overuse of antibiotics in Canada. Although Canadian clinicians prescribe 33 per cent more antibiotics than clinicians in peer countries such as the Netherlands, Sweden and Germany, it’s clear that this isn’t just a Canadian issue.

READ MORE: CIHI: overuse of antibiotics in Canada

According to the World Health Organization, antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today.

I can tell from my own experience that a lot more needs to be done. A few years ago in Toronto, a doctor strongly recommended that I take a course of antibiotics “just in case,” when he wasn’t sure if it would in fact be necessary. I decided not to take it, and when medical exams were done we saw that the antibiotics weren’t needed.

That wasn’t the first time that a doctor prescribed antibiotics to me “just in case,” and I know of many people who have had similar experiences.

I don’t think this is a new issue either. In fact, I remember my father questioning physicians in the 1990s about this issue as antibiotics would be commonly prescribed to me and my brothers.

Maybe both patients and physicians are to blame for this issue – patients don’t want to leave the doctor’s office empty-handed while, understandably, physicians might feel pressured to give patients an immediate solution to their health concerns.

Earlier this year I had an interesting conversation with two of Burns Lake’s newest doctors. They said they hoped to implement a new model of care in Burns Lake.

“I think prescriptions don’t heal people, we have to help people change their lifestyles, and have access to education,” said Dr. Charl Badenhorst. “They should know that coming to us is not the answer; so we can help them to heal themselves, looking after their elders, looking after the sick members of the community, and we can give them the support to do that, and the education.”

Dr. Badenhorst was talking about changing the way we see the health care system and the role of health care professionals.

The World Health Organization recommends using antibiotics only when prescribed by certified health care professionals, and never demanding antibiotics if they say you don’t need them. But maybe it’s also important to ask questions when health care professionals prescribe antibiotics such as, “Are antibiotics absolutely necessary in this case? Are there any other treatment options available?”

Nov. 13-19, 2017 was world antibiotic awareness week, which raises awareness to the fact that antibiotic resistance is compromising the ability to treat infectious diseases, and therefore putting people at risk. Without effective antibiotics for the prevention and treatment of infections, organ transplants, chemotherapy and surgeries such as caesarean sections become much more dangerous. This also means increased health care costs and an increased economic burden on families.



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