Make Access to Surgery a Global Health Priority, Report Says

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According to a report by Lancet Commission on Global Surgery, it was estimated that last year five billion people around the world had no access to safe, affordable surgeries and anesthesia. But in a published report in BMJ Global Health, the authors of "Global Surgery 2030: a roadmap for high income country actors," proposed what is referred to as Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) – or a roadmap to bridge the gap of access to surgical care.

The article noted that surgery has not been considered a global health priority. Surgical conditions comprise one-third of the world disease burden and investing in access to surgery could potentially help countries save $12.3 billion in lost GDP by 2030.

Until now, the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), which are quantified targets set by the United Nations, have been the sole global agreement to address issues such as extreme poverty, hunger, disease, lack of shelter and promoting gender equality, education, and environmental stability. The SDGs proposed by the authors, adds to the current eight MDGs by aiming to implement 17 "interrelated" goals, to ensure that people have access to surgery and anesthesia.

In a meeting last year in Boston, the Lancet Commission, which included collaboration among 110 countries, provided the background for the current BMJ Report. The Commission called on surgical colleges, academic medical centers, trainees and training programs, academia, global health funders, biomedical devices industry, media and advocacy groups to participate in efforts to close the disparity gap over the next 14 years.

“The goal is universal access to safe, affordable, surgical and anesthesia care when needed,” stated John G. Meara, MD, DMD, MBA, director of the Program in Global Surgery and Social Change at Harvard Medical School. He is also Plastic Surgeon-in-Chief at Boston Children’s Hospital and co-chair of the Lancet Commission on Global Surgery.  “This report demonstrates a common policy agenda between major actors and provides a roadmap for maximizing benefit to surgical patients worldwide.”

The report highlights the insufficiency of current surgical infrastructure in meeting these goals, as well as a great need for creating one.

“Sustainable surgical care implies an operating room and a surgeon, as well as safe anesthesia care, perioperative nursing care, well-developed training structures, functional equipment, referral systems and equitable financing mechanisms," the authors note.

The estimate that early inclusion of surgery has a 10-to-1 economic benefit to cost ratio – not to mention the myriad other benefits – should really propel investment and help to create a healthier global population.