Why is now the time for a Surgical Equity Prize?

  • Shae Harmon

    Shae Harmon

    Communications Manager

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A mind-boggling 5 billion people do not have access to safe surgical and anaesthesia care.

Figures vary, but up to 17 million people die prematurely due to a lack of safe surgical care. Even more conservative estimates still exceed the combined mortality rates of AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, which receive much more attention than surgery and anaesthesia on the global health agenda.

The Lancet reported a shortage of 143 million surgical procedures each year. This unmet need contributes to nearly a third of the total global burden of disease and, if met, would address a quarter of all treatable disabilities. The bottom line is that we can not achieve Universal Health Coverage if we continue to treat access to safer surgical and anaesthesia care as the forgotten stepchild of global health.

Nesta Challenges is seeking partners who are willing to champion a challenge initiative within Surgical Equity with us.

Three years ago, a resolution was passed at the World Health Assembly into strengthening emergency and essential surgical care and anaesthesia as a component of the Universal Health Coverage. It is about time we bring it up to a new level and we believe we have the right tool to achieve that goal.

The resolution also requested the incoming Director General of the WHO to commit to the issues of access to surgical and anaesthesia services, a cause which he was already passionately advocating for ahead of his WHO nomination as the Health Minister of Ethiopia. Therefore we feel that it’s the right time and the right place for us to develop initiatives that ensure success of Universal Health Coverage.

What is our event at WHA?

Our briefing “How can we scale-up surgery and anaesthesia to achieve UHC?” is exactly this – a call to action.

With the 10th year anniversary of the WHO’s Surgical Safety Checkbox around the corner, there’s a lot to reflect on and we will open the session with Dr Atul Gawande introducing us to the past and future challenges. Dr Walter Johnson of the Emergency & Essential Surgical Care Programme at WHO and Professor Adrian Gelb, the Secretary of WFSA, will announce the first-ever joint WHO & WFSA guidelines to standardise safe anaesthesia. We will be also joined by representatives of African and Asian countries to give their regional perspectives on surgery and anaesthesia care.

Lastly, Daniel Berman, the lead of the Global Health team at the Challenge Prize Centre, will concentrate on the next steps in achieving Universal Health Coverage and how a challenge prize initiative can not only accelerate the 3rd Sustainable development goal – addressing the good health and wellbeing – but also its potential to reduce poverty, tackle inequalities and facilitate partnership building for the goals, all of which are inherently the challenges of assessing surgical and anaesthesia care.

We hope to see you there!