Meager and unsatisfactory

It’s nice to see antimicrobial resistance featured in a Sunday NY Times editorial—nothing that we haven’t already covered in Eli’s recent post on the WHO report, but worth reading nonetheless. 

If you believe that “you can’t improve what you can’t measure”*, the most disheartening sentence in this editorial about the WHO report is “…few countries track and monitor antibiotic resistance comprehensively, and there is no standard methodology for doing so."

*This saying is a paraphrase of Lord Kelvin, who also said:
“When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind.” 
“Meager and unsatisfactory” is a great description of the status of our current response to the antimicrobial resistance threat.


  1. This seems like another case of physics envy to me. Kelvin had the absolute temperature scale named after him. He never came up with a way to measure health services results, or antibiotic resistance, etc. Waiting to figure out a really good way to measure something before you start to try to improve it can really be a bad idea sometimes. Hand hygiene is a good example. Many difference and mostly mediocre ways have been devised (a couple partially by me) but the lack of a way to measure it consistently hasn't made all the efforts in the last decade worthless, at least I don't think it has... :)


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