GCU builds behavioural insight team to tackle antimicrobial resistance

22 August 2016

GCU builds behavioural insight team to tackle antimicrobial resistance

Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) is developing a behavioural insights research team to focus on ways to contain antimicrobial resistance - an urgent public health threat.

The new team promises to make a major difference to healthcare-associated infection research and wider public-health related policy and practice.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has highlighted antimicrobial resistance (AMR) as ‘one of the three greatest threats to human health’ and a UK review has indicated that it will be the cause of highest attributable mortality globally by 2050 if no action is taken. It has also entered the UK National Risk Register of Civil Emergencies.

A group of researchers tasked with behavioural insight research will join GCU’s Safeguarding Health through Infection Prevention research group and will work with Health Protection Scotland and other experts across Scotland, the UK and Internationally, to contribute to the control of antimicrobial resistance through behavioural science and methodological techniques.

The team will seek to improve effective use of antibiotics through raising awareness of AMR as an issue and subsequently to change behaviours. Interventions targeted at the public have so far been delivered in a range of ways (posters, leaflets, radio, TV). They are also likely to be increasingly delivered through social media channels.

However, little is currently known about which approach works best and for whom. Equally, no attempt has been made to understand how public-facing interventions target particular groups, such as mothers or carers for example.

The researchers will therefore analyse how awareness and behaviours are measured and whether certain interventions are effective at changing awareness and effective use of antibiotics.

Professor Jacqui Reilly, Safeguarding Health through Infection Prevention research group lead, said: “Three of the main areas of focus to contain AMR are improving infection prevention and control, optimising prescribing practices and improving professional education, training and public engagement.”

Professor Paul Flowers will lead the behavioural insights work stream and build research capacity to establish a range of interventions to address antimicrobial resistance. The research will involve evidence synthesis, behavioural analysis of existing intervention descriptions, and the collection of new interview data with a range of stakeholders and populations.

He said: “The behavioural insights team boosts GCU’s growing reputation for research excellence within public health. Our widely recognised international expertise in understanding complex health behaviours in a range of domains such as hand hygiene, norovirus control, screening for MRSA, condom use, HIV testing, substance misuse and pandemic influenza is perfectly complemented by this investment within the area of antimicrobial resistance.”

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