What are the barriers to implementing national antimicrobial resistance action plans? A novel mixed-methods policy analysis in Pakistan

Khan, Mishal S and Durrance-Bagale, Anna and Mateus, Ana and Sultana, Zia and Hasan, Rumina and Hanefeld, Johanna (2020) What are the barriers to implementing national antimicrobial resistance action plans? A novel mixed-methods policy analysis in Pakistan. Health Policy and Planning. ISSN 0268-1080

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1093/heapol/czaa065


Despite political commitment to address antimicrobial resistance (AMR), countries are facing challenges to implementing policies to reduce inappropriate use of antibiotics. Critical factors to the success of policy implementation in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC), such as capacity for enforcement, contestation by influential stakeholders and financial interests, have been insufficiently considered. Using Pakistan as a case study representing a populous country with extremely high antibiotic usage, we identified 195 actors who affect policies on antibiotic use in humans and animals through a snowballing process and interviewed 48 of these who were nominated as most influential. We used a novel card game-based methodology to investigate policy actors’ support for implementation of different regulatory approaches addressing actions of frontline healthcare providers and antibiotic producers across the One Health spectrum. We found that there was only widespread support for implementing hard regulations (prohibiting certain actions) against antibiotic suppliers with little power—such as unqualified/informal healthcare providers and animal feed producers—but not to target more powerful groups such as doctors, farmers and pharmaceutical companies. Policy actors had limited knowledge to develop implementation plans to address inappropriate use of antibiotics in animals, even though this was recognized as a critical driver of AMR. Our results indicate that local political and economic dynamics may be more salient to policy actors influencing implementation of AMR national action plans than solutions presented in global guidelines that rely on implementation of hard regulations. This highlights a disconnect between AMR action plans and the local contexts where implementation takes place. Thus if the global strategies to tackle AMR are to become implementable policies in LMIC, they will need greater appreciation of the power dynamics and systemic constraints that relate to many of the strategies proposed.

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