Since commencing our internships with BSAC and Baroness Bennett – an inspirational activist and policymaker – we have experienced unbelievable opportunities, such as witnessing first-hand parliamentary actions and the complexities surrounding the ‘One Health’ approach; more specifically, the antimicrobial resistance policy work within Parliament.
Hearing our scientific voice during parliamentary debates, strongly advocating for antimicrobial stewardship and sustainable pharmaceutical use
Helping to integrate our scientific knowledge about antimicrobial resistance and pharmaceutical pollution in Baroness Bennett’s parliamentary debate speeches has been a major highlight of our work as parliamentary interns. To hear our exact statements uttered within the halls of the House of Lords is indeed a surreal experience that means a lot to us – early career researchers whose voices are usually drowned by ‘knowledge tsunamis’ we usually experience in academia. So far, we have submitted specific written questions to the UK Government on the environmental monitoring of ciprofloxacin in surface waters, of which, concentration in the environment could pose a significant antimicrobial selection risk.
We have also worked with Baroness Bennett in preparation for her contributions to the Grand Committee Debate about the ‘UK Spending on Pharmaceutical Research and Development’, where the important work with our parliamentary internship was highlighted. Since then, outcomes from this debate have become the root of where most of our works on antimicrobial resistance and pharmaceutical pollution stem out. One of which is the (re)analysis of the water quality monitoring data of the UK Government, in addition to highlighting the need for a more strategic and specific course of action to prevent pharmaceutical pollution and carbon emission in the NHS Net Zero strategy.
The work on antimicrobial stewardship is far from over. What we need is a more aware and educated society on the benefits of our precious antimicrobials and opportunities for every individual to become stewards of antimicrobials. That is why, during World Antimicrobial Awareness Week, we, together with Baroness Bennett, have also developed a short film highlighting the contributions of our own research on the sustainable and responsible use of medicines and antimicrobials.
Building networks with experts in antimicrobial stewardship
After meeting and establishing working relationships with key individuals who support the work (e.g., Clean Air Bill) of the Green Party at the House of Lords, a final highlight of our parliamentary engagements was the opportunity to attend BSAC’s Winter Conference which, as an early career researcher, allowed us to gain confidence in science communication and networking with world-renowned academics, politicians, and industry partners. Emily was fortunate to have the opportunity to chair a session with Baroness Bennett and Dr David Berendes (CDC’s WASH Team Leader). She led an informative and inspiring panel discussion focussing on how research can be translated into policies on antimicrobial stewardship. It was also an opportunity to highlight the role of the environment in the evolution and spread of antimicrobial resistance.
A brighter year for antimicrobial stewardship and sustainable use of medicines
We believe that this experience is an opportunity for us to make a real-world impact and contribute to the improvement of pharmaceutical use and antimicrobial stewardship not just in the UK, but also in other settings. The UK Parliament is where UK laws are debated, developed, and created. It is a perfect place to witness science and policy interphase, and the translation and use of science for evidence-based policymaking. Looking ahead, we want to optimise and maximise this opportunity to co-create robust and tangible policy tools by engaging with various experts in the field of One Health and Planetary Health. A data- and expert-driven policy instrument that could be valuable resources for the government, civil society, academics, policymakers, and other stakeholders – making the mitigation of the global threat of AMR one small step closer to realisation.
Emily Stevenson is a second-year PhD student with the University of Exeter and Plymouth Marine Laboratory, researching microplastics as vectors of antimicrobial resistance in aquatic systems. She is also the co-founder of the award-winning marine conservation NGO: Beach Guardian.
Julius is a health promotion specialist and previously worked as a civil servant in the Philippines. He was involved in coordinative, health and nutrition planning, and policy development at different government and non-government organisations. Currently, he is a PhD candidate in Built Environment and a Hydro Nation scholar of the Scottish Government at Glasgow Caledonian University and The James Hutton Institute. His research on sustainable healthcare focuses on developing an environmentally friendly prescribing strategy for NHS Scotland’s mental healthcare, guided by environmental risk profiles of antidepressants, and using nature-based (blue space) social prescribing. Julius completed his MSc in Public Health and Health Promotion (with Distinction) at Bangor University in Wales as a Chevening scholar and obtained his BSc in Nutrition at the University of the Philippines.