The need to look at antibiotic resistance from a health systems perspective

Ups J Med Sci. 2014 May;119(2):117-24. doi: 10.3109/03009734.2014.902879. Epub 2014 Mar 27.


Current use, misuse, and overuse of antibiotics raise dangers and ethical dilemmas that cannot be solved in isolation, exclusively within a health system building block or even within the health sector only. There is a need to tackle antibiotic resistance emergence and containment on levels ranging from individuals, households, and the communities, to health care facilities, the entire health sector, and finally to national and global levels. We analyse emergence of antibiotic resistance based on interdependencies between health systems resources. We further go beyond the health system building blocks, to look at determinants of antibiotic resistance referring to wider global dynamics. Multi-level governance is the key for successful action in containment strategies. This will involve, in a comprehensive way, patients, health facilities where they receive care, health systems to which these facilities pertain, and the wider national context as well as the global community that influences the functioning of these health systems. In order to be effective and sustainable in both high and low-resource settings, implementation of containment interventions at all these levels needs to be managed based on existing theories and models of change. Although ministries of health and the global community must provide vision and support, it is important to keep in mind that containment interventions for antibiotic resistance will target individuals, consumers as well as providers.

Keywords: Antibiotics; antibiotics resistance; health systems; systems thinking.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Delivery of Health Care*
  • Drug Resistance, Microbial*
  • Humans