Meet the team: Kassandra Betham
Can you introduce yourself and your role with COMBAT-AMR?
Talofa lava, I am Kassandra Betham, Project Coordinator for Samoa.
What are you currently working on?
I am currently working with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF) and the Scientific Research Organisation of Samoa (SROS) to conduct a comprehensive national antimicrobial resistance (AMR) assessment. The assessment includes three separate but reinforcing tools for data collection:
1. National AMR context review framework
2. National AMR Policy and Practice Assessment Framework
3. National AMR key informant interviews
The data obtained will be used to assess the strengths and weaknesses in Samoa’s animal health sector for surveillance of AMR and antimicrobial use. The assessment is set up to be able to obtain a wide perspective from the different levels involved in AMR policy and practice, to understand what is happening not only on paper but also in practice. This process is useful for developing informed workplans that meet the needs of MAF and SROS for mitigating the threat of AMR through a one health approach. In addition, the information collected will provide baseline data that will be used to measure the performance of the project.
Before joining the COMBAT-AMR project, what were you working on?
From 2014 to 2021, I worked for the Australian High Commission, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Samoa as the Senior Program Manager for Health and Disability. One of the projects I managed was the Impact Project: Catalysing Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for Samoa. This is a four-year project that commenced in 2017 and was implemented by the Samoa Family Health Association in partnership with the International Planned Parenthood Federation. The project has been able to achieve indicators for reaching an increased number of clients, especially through outreach programs. Another exciting achievement for the project is the provision of inclusive services, which was evident through several clients with disabilities testifying to their positive experiences in accessing and receiving SRHR services.
What initially attracted you to working in public health and your area of research?
I have always had a strong desire to work in public health and undertaking the National AMR assessment provides a real opportunity to target interventions for addressing AMR. The assessment will also provide baseline data that will be used to monitor and evaluate the achievement of the end-of-project outcomes. As a project manager I have previously seen missed opportunities to capture data that can be used to measure project outcomes more affectively. We need that evidence to tell the project’s and more importantly, the beneficiaries' story. This is why for me, monitoring and evaluation is an area I am interested in developing further in the public health space.
Why is combatting AMR important to you?
If ignored, the threat of AMR will become a much bigger problem and will have far reaching effects on health and development outcomes. It is important to me to reduce the impact AMR has on an individual and global scale.
What do you see as the biggest challenges in mitigating the threat of AMR in the Pacific Islands and globally?
There are a number of challenges, but for me the three biggest challenges are:
1. Managing a coordinated approach at various levels, including at the global level, across agencies who are funding and/or implementing projects and the everyday work that addresses AMR in a direct or indirect way.
2. Low levels of awareness and knowledge on the extent of the threat AMR poses.
3. Lack of urgency to implement plans for change.
The COMBAT-AMR project addresses these challenges by taking a collaborative approach with in-country partners across health sectors and various industries, to implement activities that support key areas of need in order to reduce the burden of AMR both regionally and globally.