In 2023, World Health Day will acknowledge the achievements of the World Health Organization (WHO) over the past 75 years. The theme for the day – Health for All – will resonate with our Health staff and students. For Dr Roberto Azcui Aparicio, PhD, MD, health for all drives his commitment as a medical doctor, researcher and lecturer in Public Health on Torrens University’s Melbourne campus.
Improving population health through Public Health
‘Not only as a doctor and a lecturer in Public Health, but as a member of society, I can see the relevance of Public Health as a way we can all improve our lives,’ Dr Azcui Aparicio explains. ‘It is a big area, and for those who want to study Public Health, you can work to develop better policies to improve the health of vulnerable populations or carry out research to build the scientific evidence that medical professionals need.’
Dr Azcui Aparicio is the coordinator for the subject Global and Environmental Health Issues. ‘I've seen throughout the years that I've been working in Public Health that it is not just about the health of humans, it’s about the conditions we live in, the built environment and the natural environment. It is a science and a discipline that involves how we can interact better between communities and between communities and the environment.’
Dr Roberto Azcui Aparicio’s research on antimicrobial resistance
Perceptions and experiences of general practitioners in Australia about the National Action Plan on antimicrobial resistance is the title of Dr Azcui Aparicio’s qualitative research study.
In his research proposal Dr Azcui Aparicio writes:
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is one of the most critical global threats that might lead to critical negative consequences for health systems across the world, including the increase of health expenses leading to more poverty and health inequities…
It is a complex topic, but as Dr Azcui Aparicio explains, it’s easy to see the positive impact this research will have around Australia and the world.
‘Infectious agents have a resistance against the main weapons we use to fight them – the antimicrobial drugs. Mostly we can see that resistance in bacteria and viruses, but other agents are also developing resistance over time.
‘The main issue is the way antimicrobial drugs are misused, so one aim of my research project is to understand GPs’ perceptions of antimicrobial resistance in Australia. I am also studying their knowledge of the National Action Plan, established by the World Health Organization and others to tackle the spread of AMR pathogens, and their experience in prescribing antibiotics to their patients.
‘A second aim of the project is to understand if patients influence their GPs’ decision to prescribe antibiotics. For example, we have seen that a lot of parents tend to be very keen to receive antibiotics for their children when they are sick. And most of the time this treatment is not necessary. So what influences a GP’s decision in that case? Is there something relevant in the patient's background, such as a preexisting condition, or behavioural issues, including pressure from parents or family members, or even from the patients?’
What motivated Dr Azcui Aparicio to undertake this study about general practitioners?
‘In my Health career as a medical doctor and academic, my specialist field is managing infectious diseases, and I've seen how difficult it has become to treat even simple, common conditions, such as a sore throat or what we call community acquired pneumonia. These diseases tend to respond really well to treatment by common antibiotics. But the problem is that every year it is more difficult to successfully treat patients, particularly vulnerable groups of the population, such as the elderly or children or people with compromised immunity. So, one of the key points that inspired me to do this research is to understand the practice here in Australia of using antimicrobial drugs.’
Research project at the Centre for Healthy Sustainable Development
Dr Azcui Aparicio is working on this research project at Torrens University’s Center for Healthy Sustainable Development (CHSD), collaborating with Associate Professor Clare Littleton, the Acting Deputy Centre Director. The Centre’s three main themes are Health for All, Education for All, and Housing for All. Many different projects are running concurrently in the Center and researchers also collaborate with academics from other universities, to try to find effective solutions to a range of issues our society faces today.
Why is World Health Day so important?
Dr Azcui Aparicio says, ‘The importance of this day is to remind us that we have to maintain our healthy lifestyles – not just our human health, but also our planet’s health. And an aspect of that is how we interact with those organisms that are part of our environment and knowing how we can develop a sustainable, symbiotic relationship with them and with all elements of nature. To improve our health, we should try to reduce the impact that we have on our natural environment.’