Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) threatens to cause ten million deaths annually by 2050, making it a top item on the global health agenda. The current global policy response is multi-faceted, wherein behavioural dimensions like people’s medicine use are being predominantly addressed with education and communication campaigns. The social sciences literature suggests that cross-contextual translation of medical knowledge in global awareness campaigns can create misunderstandings and adverse behavioural responses. However, the consequences of AMR communication in low-income and middle-income contexts remain largely undocumented. In response to the empirical knowledge gap, this study presents the case study of educational activity in three northern Thai villages with the objective of contributing to the understanding of the consequences (and their contextual influences) when sharing antibiotic-related information in a rural middle-income setting. The activity’s messages were based on World Health Organization AMR awareness-raising material. A mixed-methods research design informed the analysis. Descriptive difference-in-difference and geographical analysis based on complete village census surveys with a 3-month interval (n = 1096) was supplemented by qualitative data and observations from the educational activity. The underlying conceptual framework hypothesised that outcomes arise via (a) direct participation and indirect exposure (posters, conversations), subject to translational processes and physical and health system contexts; and via (b) the activity’s influence on village social networks. The outcomes demonstrated that participants aligned their antibiotic-related attitudes and behaviours with the activity’s recommendations. Aside from language barriers (which excluded non-Thai speakers), fragmented local healthcare landscapes limited villagers’ ability to act on the activity but also provided a market opportunity for informal antibiotics sales, and interactions with parallel yet misunderstood public health campaigns created rumours and resistance. Social support from community members also promoted healthy behaviours but remained unaffected by the activity. As one of the most detailed mixed-method assessments of public engagement in AMR, this study challenges the current dominance of awareness-raising campaigns to change population behaviours. We call for comprehensive mixed-method evaluations of future campaigns, mandatory two-directional knowledge exchange components, and alternative behaviour change approaches that respond to contextual constraints like precarity rather than alleged knowledge deficits.
Charoenboon, N., Haenssgen, M. J., Warapikuptanun, P., Xayavong, T., & Khine Zaw, Y. (2019). Translating antimicrobial resistance: A case study of context and consequences of antibiotic-related communication in three northern Thai villages. Palgrave Communications, 5(1), 1–24. https://doi.org/10.1057/s41599-019-0226-9