The United Nations passed its first resolution to combat antibiotic resistance, a problem that kills 700,000 people around the world every year, including 23,000 in the U.S.

“This is the health crisis of our generation,” Consumer Reports’ CEO Marta Tellado told U.N. delegates at Wednesday’s High-Level Meeting on Antimicrobial Resistance.

Among other issues, Tellado discussed the importance of both consumer education and government accountability in combating the problem.

The new resolution calls on member states to develop better systems for managing antibiotics, support research for new diagnostics and treatment options, and improve their surveillence of resistant bugs. The World Health Organization will develop an action plan in the coming months for combating antibiotic resistance.

Throughout the day, global health experts conjured a future in which even the simplest surgeries and most common infections (think hip replacements and urinary tract infections) carry the risk of death; and one in which standard medications (including those given for psoriasis, Crohn's disease, multiple sclerosis, and organ transplants) can no longer be used because there are no antibiotics to complement them.

“Many treatments we rely on now are immunosuppressive,” said Tom Frieden, M.D., director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “We need to be able to treat those infections for those medications to work.”

Read our special report "The Rise of Superbugs" and see our "Guide to Antibiotic Resistance."

A recent report from the U.K. estimated that antibiotic resistant infections are on track to outpace cancer as a leading cause of death globally by 2050.

A 2015 Consumer Reports survey found that 41 percent of U.S. adults were completely unaware of the problem of antibiotic resistance. That statistic, Tellado said, presents both a problem and an opportunity: Consumer behavior can have a huge impact on whether antibiotic resistance persists or abates in the coming years.

For example, a growing consumer demand for food produced without antibiotics has led to some positive changes. A recent report from several groups including Consumers Union, the policy and mobilization arm of Consumer Reports, found that nine of the 25 largest fast food chains in the U.S. are adopting strong policies that prohibit the routine use of antibiotics, or medically important antibiotics, in the meat and poultry they serve. That's up from five chains last year.

While antibiotic resistance is typically described as a problem of medicine, factory farms play as much of a role as hospitals do. In the U.S., 80 percent of all antibiotics are used on farm animals—not exclusively to treat diseases, but also to prevent them from occurring, and to speed up the growth (and thus increase the profit potential) of cattle, chicken, and swine.

In doctors' offices and hospitals, the CDC estimates that up to a third of all antibiotic prescriptions are written for inappropriate uses, including viruses like the flu and other ailments that the drugs can’t work against. (Read more about when antibiotics are and aren't needed.)

In addition, a 2015 Consumer Reports survey found that one in five antibiotic prescriptions are written at patients’ requests.

“That’s a problem that can be solved through consumer education,” Tellado said.

But while consumer awareness is necessary, Tellado and others say that consumers can’t conquer antibiotic resistance on their own.

“We need leadership on a scale that we have not yet seen,” she told delegates. Individual governments need to craft and put in place policies that combat the overuse of existing antibiotics and support the development new ones.

Today’s resolution is a promising step in that direction.