New Campaign Aims to Reduce Antimicrobial Resistance, Zoonotic Diseases

A new campaign in Tanzania is designed to teach people when they should – and shouldn’t – use antibiotics to treat diseases.

A new campaign in Tanzania is designed to teach people when they should – and shouldn’t – use antibiotics to treat diseases.

While the message is stark – “Holela Holela itakukosti,” which in Swahili means “recklessness is costly” – it is delivered by a friendly pill mascot, who warns of the dangers of antimicrobial resistance and certain zoonotic diseases that are transmitted from animals to humans, causing outbreaks and pandemics.

The campaign, from the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs-led Breakthrough ACTION project, was developed by stakeholders from wide swaths of Tanzania, from government officials to veterinarians to consumers to health experts to farmers, ensuring that it would resonate with those that most need to hear what it has to say. Their input was vital to the development of campaign.

Certain common behaviors and limited medical and scientific understanding among communities in Tanzania leaves the country vulnerable to outbreaks of infectious diseases. This new multimedia campaign will bridge these knowledge gaps and offer examples of what people can do to reduce the chances of spreading disease or getting sick.

Officially launched in May, CCP’s Waziri Nyoni, the chief of party for Breakthrough ACTION-Tanzania, says Holela Holela has been an instant hit, provoking self-reflection and discussion among health care providers and people from all walks of life.

“If we don’t act now to address this silent pandemic,” he says, “our medicine cabinet will be empty, and we won’t have the antibiotics we need to save lives.”

The initiative is funded by USAID’s Global Health Security (GHS) Program.

Antimicrobial resistance, which occurs when micro-organisms evolve and are no longer responsive to standard treatment, is driven by human behavior and policies, especially the misuse and overuse of antibiotics and other antimicrobials in the medical, veterinary and agricultural sectors.

When this happens, previously treatable infections can spread rapidly and further increase the risk of severe illness and death, increasing health care costs and ultimately undermining a community’s ability to deal with known and unknown health threats.

Social and behavior change interventions – like the radio spots, posters and community aids created as part of Holela Holela – can help with everything from increasing awareness and knowledge of antimicrobial resistance to helping human and veterinary health providers understand how they can avoid contributing to resistance.

“We want people to have comprehensive knowledge about the causes, the contributing factors and what can be done to prevent zoonotic diseases that spread between humans and animals,” says CCP’s Mark Lwakatare, the senior program officer for risk communication and community engagement in Tanzania.  “We want people to be concerned because we all contribute to the spread of disease and drug resistance. And we want them to feel empowered to do something about it.”

Holela Holela will focus on three priority zoonotic diseases in Tanzania: brucellosis, anthrax and rabies. The goal is to not only reduce disease spread by focusing on such behaviors as handwashing, wearing protective equipment and making sure meat is fully cooked before eating, but to ensure that people work with authorized care providers to prevent the diseases and get proper treatment if they do get sick.

Overuse of antimicrobials to incorrectly treat these zoonotic diseases is one of the factors contributing to resistance of humans and animals to medications when they are needed.

One of the graphics created for Holela Holela shows a picture of an obviously sick man with an array of medications set before him on his bed. The tagline says: “Indiscriminate use of medications will cost you, follow the advice of a health care provider before using medications.” Others include messages about vaccinating dogs against rabies, consulting the veterinarian before giving medication to your livestock and using protective gear during animal births.

At the launch of the campaign, several dignitaries including officials from USAID and the Prime Minister’s Office were in attendance to bring awareness to the new campaign and snapped photos with the pill mascot, named Kido.

Said Alexander Klaits, the Deputy Mission Director for USAID Tanzania: “The United States Government remains steadfast in our commitment to building healthy communities and moving from awareness to action, and we encourage everyone to support this campaign. Together, let us move forward to protect the health and well-being of all Tanzanians.”

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