Basic Surgeries Can Avert Deaths in Developing Nations

Monday, April 20, 2015

Basic surgeries such as delivering babies via caesarean section are some of the most cost-effective health measures in developing countries, potentially averting 1.5 million deaths each year.

“There are people who still equate surgery with expensive tertiary care but the data show otherwise,” says Haile Debas, a surgeon and one of the editors of Essential Surgery, the first of nine volumes of the disease control priorities series published last month (24 March) by the World Bank Group.

The book lists 44 operations as crucial to developing countries, including cataract surgery, in which advances largely came from those very countries, says Debas, who is also founding director of the University of California Global Health Institute.

Debas tells SciDev.Net that in India alone, the Aravind Eye Care System — a network of hospitals, factories, research institutes and community outreach efforts — performs roughly 60 per cent as many eye surgeries annually as the UK National Health System, at one-thousandth of the cost.

Aravind is able to do this partly by making payments voluntary and enabling paying patients to subsidise non-paying ones, while still paying substantially less than they would at other Indian hospitals.

Debas hopes decision-makers in developing countries will make surgical services a priority. Many of the 44 operations listed in the book can be done in district hospitals, which are cost effective because of the assistance of other health professionals and nurses as well as the patients’ families who bring food to their sick members.

Source: Science and Development Network (link opens in a new window)

Health Care
infectious diseases