As we say goodbye to the warmer months it’s time to start thinking about staying well over winter and what we can do now to prevent cold and flu season from affecting ourselves and our workplace. Something that has been of growing concern over the past few years has been a decline in the effectiveness of many medications we rely on to treat these illnesses, and with next week being World Health Day (7th April), I thought it was a good time to talk a bit about antimicrobial resistance and the World Health Organisation’s campaign to fight it.
What it Antimicrobial Resistance?
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) occurs when the drugs we have been using to treat diseases caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi stop working because those microorganisms have grown resistant to that particular medication. This means that diseases we previously were able to treat successfully with say a course of antibiotics may no longer respond to those antibiotics, causing not only absenteeism but prolonged illness, and in some cases a risk of death.
Strains of disease that have become resistant to first-line antimicrobial drugs may need expensive and drawn out treatments. Long stays in hospitals increase the risk of further illness and place financial burden on families, communities and businesses, so it’s important to focus on preventative healthcare practices, education and sensible lifestyle habits that keep us fit and less likely to have to fall back on medications.
What Causes AMR and What Can Be Done to Prevent It?
AMR is for the most part caused by the misuse of drugs such as antibiotics in both humans and animal husbandry. It occurs when these drugs are inappropriately prescribed, taken at incorrect doses or ceased before the completion of the course, giving the resistant microorganisms a chance to re-emerge and spread.
The WHO (World Health Organisation) is calling on policy makers, medical practitioners, the pharmaceutical industry and the public to take action against antimicrobial resistance by using drugs responsibly and promoting awareness of this growing issue. Drugs such as antibiotics should be used only when necessary and in strict keeping with doctors’ orders so that we can preserve these precious drugs for when they are really needed.
So what can we do as corporations to combat the spread of AMR? Well workplace education and initiative is key, as the best way to prevent overuse of medications is to prevent illness in the first place. Good workplace health promotion should always focus on equipping employees with strategies to keep them robust and healthy so as to ward off illness rather than resorting to popping pills and soldiering on.
Corporate health initiatives that combat infectious illnesses in the workplace may include:
• Winter wellness packs that include online seminars, booklets to educate your employees in winter illness prevention through office hygiene practises such as regular hand washing and a coughing etiquette.
• Motivational Programs and Team Challenges that promote regular exercise – a must for a strong immune system.
• Nutritional consultations and team challenges such as Chews 2 Change that encourage staff to eat a healthy diet full of immune boosting vitamins and minerals.
• Sleep and stress management seminars to prevent employees from becoming run down and susceptible to infection.
Remember also that water is not only crucial for on the job concentration but also plays a critical role in flushing microorganisms from the body and boosting the circulation of the immune system. Encourage your staff as part of your corporate wellness program to drink up to two litres a day. It’s a small but meaningful step in the right direction.
For more information on Corporate Health Programs, contact Healthworks on 1300 90 10 90 (International: IDD 61-2-9954-1888) or contact us.