Lancet Commission on Global Surgery: neglected no more?

Surgery has often been referred to as “the neglected stepchild of public health” – under-resourced, under-valued and misunderstood.  But today marks a bold step in the fight against unsafe surgery, with the launch of the Lancet Commission on Global Surgery: a year-long, collaborative research effort culminating in a report that aims to put the problems of essential surgery at the heart of the global health agenda.

And Lifebox Foundation is proud to be one of the solutions.

Pulse oximetry is used by the Commissioners as a proxy for safety, one of the essential components of surgical access (along with capacity, timeliness and affordability).  Lifebox, which delivers environment-appropriate pulse oximeters and training in safe surgical practices across low-resource settings, is showcased as a leader in “encouraging examples of surgical innovations developed for low-resource settings” – at a time when it has never been more urgent.

“There is a clear need for discovery of how societies can most effectively increase provision of essential surgery, as well as its quality and safety,” said surgeon and author Atul Gawande in an accompanying editorial.

“This report makes clear how urgent the situation is – and how innovative approaches, like that of Lifebox Foundation, can be used to save millions of lives.”

For the first time in history you’re more likely to be killed by a surgically treatable condition than a communicable disease; but in low resource settings surgery can be a challenge to access and desperately unsafe.

Five billion people worldwide do not have access to safe and affordable surgery and anaesthesia when they need it, and low and middle income countries (LMICs) are the worst affected. Only 6 percent of the 313 million surgical procedures that take place worldwide each year occur in the poorest countries, and estimates produced by the commission suggest that 144 million additional operations are needed annually in these regions.

Despite this urgent need, “the development and delivery of surgical and anaesthesia care in LMICs has been nearly absent from the global health discourse.”

This commission, launched today at the Royal Society of Medicine in London, U.K., was developed through the collaboration of 25 leading experts in the field of surgery and anaesthesia from around the world.

“Access to safe surgery and anaesthesia is a global issue: the expertise and insight we have gathered over the last two years makes this commission relevant to all of us,” said Commissioner and Lifebox Trustee Iain Wilson.

“Understanding the scope of the problem will help us to address it.  Working in more than 90 countries with Lifebox, the Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland (AAGBI), and the World Federation of Societies of Anaesthesiologists (WFSA), we’ve seen the power of professional communities to make a difference.”

Advocating for and improving surgical safety in low-resource countries is at the heart of Lifebox’s work. Since 2010, we have distributed 9000 pulse oximeters to hospitals in 90 countries – working with anaesthetists, surgeons and healthcare professionals across low and high resource settings to safeguard more than 10 million lives.

Through the distribution of essential monitoring, training to ensure that this essential piece of equipment is used appropriately, and by supporting the safety systems that keep patients safe, we are ensuring that more communities have access to safe surgery and anaesthesia – and that healthcare workers have the tools they need to keep their patients safe.

The commission signifies a new era for global health which we are so proud to be a part of. It provides a much needed focus on the development of safe, essential, life-saving surgical and anaesthesia care in low-income and middle-income countries.  Millions of lives are put at risk each year from unsafe surgery – this change cannot come soon enough.