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Research Program on Infectious Diseases and Antimicrobial Resistance


Antibiotic addiction. Photo: BigStock

Within the sociological study of Infectious Diseases and Antimicrobial Resistance we focus on the critical analysis of infection ‘management’ in everyday health and medical work - and in community settings - exploring how social dynamics shape decisions, illness experiences and care provision. We focus on incorporating lay/consumer and community perspectives in understanding and addressing infectious diseases challenges  as well as incorporating the experiences of doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other key stakeholders. A core concern here is how current care practices (e.g. antibiotic mis-use) may be embedded in complex social relations and cultural values, rather than necessarily derived from evidence of ‘best practice’ or are able to be simply ‘changed’ through guidelines and educational interventions. These may be relations of fear, risk, compassion, benevolence and so on. Such insights into the sociological underpinnings of health and medical practices allow us to work toward meaningful, context-appropriate change which acknowledges the complexity of healthcare work.  

In this Program we also explore how geopolitical concerns such as how the dynamics of globalisation and flow of people across borders, shapes views of, and responses to, of Infectious Diseases and Antimicrobial Resistance. This includes attention to the social justice dimensions of illness, vulnerability and access to care, and how the global burden of disease can and does disproportionately impact on those people living in (economically) poorer communities and nations. Thus our analyses of local and global infectious diseases challenges tend to focus on the critical examination of questions around uncertainty, risk, fear, governance, and communication, and how interpersonal, inter-professional, institutional, economic and regional dynamics and priorities shape health outcomes and care practices. Whether focused on antibiotic use, the proliferation of resistant organisms or responses to Ebola or HIV, this work seeks to map the social and cultural dimensions of infectious diseases and antimicrobial resistance, working with local and international partners in healthcare, government and the community to enact change. 

Key Investigators/Collaborators

Selected Publications

Broom, A., Kirby, E., Gibson, A., Post, J. Broom, J. (2017) Myth, manners, and medical ritual: Defensive medicine and the fetishisation of antibiotics.Qualitative Health Research: 27(13), 1994-2005. doi: 10.1177/1049732317721478

Broom, J., Broom, A., Lwin, Z., Good, P.(2019 in press) Why is optimisation of antimicrobial use difficult at the end of life? Internal Medical Journal 

Broom, A., Gibson, A., Kirby, E., Davis, M., and Broom, J. (2018) The private life of medicine: accounting for antibiotics in the ‘for-profit’ hospital setting. Social Theory & Health, 16(4): 379-395. Doi:

Broom, A., Kenny, K., Kirby, E., George, G., Chittem, M. (2018 in press) Improvisation, therapeutic brokerage and antibiotic (mis)use in India.Critical Public Health. Doi:

Broom, A., Broom, J., Kirby, E., Gibson, A., Davis, M. (2017) Antibiotic optimisation in ‘the bush’: Local know-how and core-periphery relations. Health and Place 48, 56-62. doi: 10.1016/j.healthplace.2017.09.003.

Broom, J., Broom, A., Kirby, E., (2018) Context-sensitive antibiotic optimisation: A qualitative study in a remote Australian hospital setting.Journal of Hospital Infection. Doi:

 Broom, J., Tee, J., Broom, A., Kelly, M., Scott, T., Grieve, D. (2018) Addressing social influences reduces antibiotic duration in complicated intra-abdominal infections. A mixed methods study. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Surgery. Doi:

Broom J, Broom A, Kirby E, Post J.  (2018) Improvisation versus guideline concordance in surgical antibiotic prophylaxis: A qualitative study. Infection Volume 46, Issue 4, pp 541–548. Doi:

Broom, J., Broom, A. (2018) Guideline relevance, diagnostic uncertainty, fear and hierarchy: Intersecting barriers to antibiotic optimization in respiratory infections. Respirology 23(8):733-734. Doi:

Broom J, Broom A, Kirby E, Post J.  (2018) How do professional relationships affect surgical antibiotic prophylaxis decision making? A qualitative study. American Journal of Infection Control 46(3):311-315doi:

Broom, J. and Broom, A. (2017 in press) Fear and hierarchy: Critical influences on antibiotic decision making in the operating theatre. Journal of Hospital Infection doi:

Broom, A., Broom, J., Kirby, E. & Scambler, G. (2017) Nurses as antibiotic brokers: Institutionalized praxis in the hospital. Qualitative Health Research. doi:10.1177/1049732316679953 [Online early]

Kirby, E., Broom, A., Gibson, A., Broom, J., Yarwood, T., Post, J. (2017 in press) Medical authority, managerial power and political will: A Bourdieusian analysis of antibiotics in the hospital. Health: An Interdisciplinary Journal for the Social Study of Health, Illness and Medicine doi: 10.1177/1363459317715775

Broom, J., Broom, A., Kirby, E., Gibson, A. Post, J. (2017) Individual care versus broader public health: A qualitative study of hospital doctors’ antibiotic decisions. Infection, Disease and Health 22(3), 97-104. doi: 10.1016/j.idh.2017.05.003

Broom, J., Broom, A., Bowden, V. (2017) Ebola outbreak preparedness planning: A qualitative study of clinicians’ experiences. Public Health. doi:10.1016/j.puhe.2016.11.008

Broom, J., Broom, A., Kirby, E., Gibson, A., & Post, J. (2017) Clinical and social barriers to antimicrobial stewardship in pulmonary medicine: A qualitative study. American Journal of Infection Control. doi: 10.1016/j.ajic.2017.03.003 [Published online 3 April 2017]

Broom, J., Broom, A., Kirby, E., Gibson, A. Post, J. (2017) How do hospital respiratory clinicians perceive antimicrobial stewardship?  A qualitative study highlighting barriers to antimicrobial stewardship in respiratory medicine. Journal of Hospital Infection 96(4), 316-322. doi: 10.1016/j.jhin.2017.05.001

Broom, A. & Broom, J. (2016) Fear, duty and the moralities of care: The Ebola 2014 threat. Journal of Sociology. doi:10.1177/1440783316634215

Broom, J., Broom, A. Adams, K., Plage, S. (2016) What prevents the IV to oral antibiotic switch? A qualitative study of hospital doctor’s accounts of what influences their clinical practice. Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy. doi:10.1093/jac/dkw129

Broom, J., Broom, A., Plage, S., Hunt, K., Post, J. (2016) Barriers to uptake of antimicrobial advice in a UK hospital: A qualitative study. Journal of Hospital Infection. doi:10.1016/j.jhin.2016.03.011

Broom, A., Gibson, A., Broom, J., Kirby, E., Yarwood, T., Post, J. (2016) Optimising antibiotic usage in hospitals: A qualitative study of the perspectives of hospital managers. Journal of Hospital Infection. doi:10.1016/j.jhin.2016.08.021

Broom, A., Plage, S., Broom, J. Kirby, E., Adams, J. (2016) A qualitative study of hospital pharmacists and antibiotic governance: Negotiating interprofessional responsibilities, expertise and resource constraints. BMC Health Services Research. doi:10.1186/s12913-016-1290-0 

Broom, A., Broom, J., Kirby, E., Adams, J. (2015) The social dynamics of antibiotic use in an Australian hospital. Journal of Sociology. doi:10.1177/1440783315594486

Broom, A., Broom, J. Kirby, E., Plage, S. Adams, J. (2015) What role do pharmacists play in mediating antibiotic use in hospitals? A qualitative study. British Medical Journal Open. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2015-008326  

Broom, A., Broom, J. & Kirby, E., Scambler, G. (2015) The path of least resistance? Jurisdictions, responsibility and professional asymmetries in pharmacists’ accounts of antibiotic decisions in hospitals. Social Science and Medicine. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2015.10.037

Broom, A., Broom, J., Kirby, E. (2014) Cultures of resistance? A Bourdieusian analysis of doctors’ antibiotic prescribing. Social Science and Medicine. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2014.03.030

O’Brien, S. & Broom, A. (2014) HIV in (and out of) the clinic: Biomedicine, traditional and spiritual healing in Harare. SAHARA-J: Journal of the Social Aspects of HIV. doi:10.1080/17290376.2014.938102

O’Brien, S. & Broom, A. (2014) HIV in Harare: The role and relevance of social stigma. African Journal of AIDS Research. doi:10.2989/16085906.2014.961941

O’Brien, S. & Broom, A. (2013) Gender, culture and changing attitudes: Experiences of HIV in Zimbabwe. Culture, Health & Sexuality Vol. 15, No. 5 pp583-597. 

Broom, A. and Adams, J. (eds.) (2012) Evidence-Based Healthcare in Context: Critical Social Science Perspectives. Ashgate: Farnham. ISBN: 978-0-7546-7981-3.

O’Brien, S. and Broom, A. (2011) The rise and fall of HIV prevalence in Zimbabwe. African Journal of AIDS Research. 10(3) pp281–290.

Broom, A., Adams, J. & Tovey, P. (2009) Evidence-based healthcare in practice. Social Science and Medicine Vol. 68, No. 1 pp.192–200. 

Recent Projects and Funding

2019-22 Australian Research Council Discovery Grant [DP190100823] ‘Superbugs’ in India: Antimicrobial resistance, inequality and development [Doron, Broom] $400,000

2018-21 Australian Research Council Linkage Grant [LP170100300] Navigating an Uncertain Antimicrobial Future: A Sociological Study [Broom, Kirby, Davis, Dodds, Broom, Post]  [ARC $318,473 and PO $100,000] Total = $418,437

2017-20, Advance Queensland Fellowship [Broom, Fellow/Partner Organisation - UNSW/Broom], Novel antimicrobial stewardship innovations to preserve antibiotics for the future = $600,000

2016-18, Queensland Health/Sunshine Coast Health and Hospital Service, Influencing hospital antimicrobial prescribing: Cultural, social and behavioural change to guide clinical practice improvement.  $231,054 [Broom, Broom, Post]

2014-17, Australian Research Council Linkage Project, LP140100020 ‘Unintended consequences? A sociological study of how social relations influence decisions about antibiotics ARC and PO = $222,117 [Broom, Kirby, Adams, Broom, Looke]

2015-17, Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service, ‘How do global epidemics influence local practice? A socio-behavioural study of health professional perceptions of, and responses to, the Ebola outbreak’ [Broom, Broom]

2016, UNSW School of Social Sciences Project Grant, ‘A qualitative study of the unregulated antibiotic market and non-prescribed antibiotic use in India’, $7052 [Broom, Kirby]

2014-15, Wishlist Sunshine Coast Health Foundation, Cultures of prescribing: a multicentre study [Broom, Broom, Kirby] $48,000

2013, Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service, Cultures of prescribing a multicentre study [Broom, Broom] $11,381

Infection control: Why doctors over-prescribe antibiotics

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