Surgical Intervention: How to Improve Access to Surgical Care in the Developing World

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Access to surgical and anaesthetic care is an essential, but often forgotten, component of health care in the developing world.

An estimated five billion of the world’s population are unable to access safe surgery when they need it, and only six per cent of the 313 million procedures performed annually are done in the world’s poorest countries.

Access is defined by four criteria: safety, affordability, timeliness and capacity to deliver, the lack of which means 16.9 million lives are lost each year. These deaths represent 32.9 per cent of the annual global mortality.

For too long, health policy affecting the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world has ignored access to safe surgery and anaesthesia. But a concerted global effort is shifting policy at all levels, and a universal health goal is part of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Safe surgery and anaesthesia are vital to effectively treat much of the global burden of non-communicable diseases and injuries, and contribute to the provision of safe childbirth.

The major barriers to the delivery of essential surgical services in many low and middle income countries (LMICs) are the perceptions that surgery is unaffordable and too complicated to include in public health strategies. The result is a lack of global and national policies promoting safe surgery and anaesthesia, and a failure to develop the staff, infrastructure and capacity to deliver emergency and essential procedures.

In fact, recent work by the Lancet Commission on Global Surgery based on the New Zealand procedures database, suggests that almost 30 per cent of all conditions require surgery and anaesthesia. The treatment of most surgical conditions does not necessarily require complex surgical skills or equipment, and in some parts of the world, particularly Sub-Saharan Africa, trained providers of surgery and anaesthesia need not always be doctors or specialists.

Source: APPS Policy Forum (link opens in a new window)

Health Care
public policy