What we do

Five billion people lack access to safe, affordable, and effective surgery¹.

In parts of the world, the risk of death following surgery can be 22 times higher than in a high-income country. Yet Lifebox is the only NGO dedicated to making surgery and anesthesia safer².

All of our work is rooted in the WHO Surgical Safety Checklist –  a simple communication tool that has been proven to reduce complications and deaths from unsafe surgery by up to 40%.

Our programs work across three core pillars of Safer Surgery – improving anesthesia safety, reducing surgical infection rates, and strengthening surgical teamwork.  By working alongside local partners, we provide the training and tools needed to save lives through safer surgery. 

Promoting Surgical Teamwork – one of the hardest parts in effective Checklist use is the engagement of the surgical team – from hospital leadership to surgeons, from nursing to sterile processing technicians. Teamwork requires changing behavioral culture in the operating room and across professional lines. Whether it’s through tools like the Lifebox Light, or our Checklist Implementation Strategies workshop, improving surgical teamwork is central to our work.

Improving Anesthesia Safety – the cornerstone of our safer anesthesia work is to ensure that surgical procedures do not take place without pulse oximetry – the essential monitoring of oxygen levels in the blood. To date, more than 32,000 pulse oximeters have been distributed to anesthesia providers around the world with accompanying training in oximetry. Yet we know that there is still much work to do – from providing monitors for the full perioperative process –  from pre- to post-op – in the ICUs and NICUs, as well as in the transfer of patients to a higher level of care. 

Reducing Surgical Infection –  A patient undergoing surgery in a low- and middle-income country is more than twice as likely to develop a surgical site infection than a patient in the US or Western Europe. The rate of surgical site infection in these parts of the world stands at 5.6 per 100 procedures, in comparison to 2.6 per for the US and 2.9 for Europe. With complications from surgery representing a major global health challenge, reducing surgical site infection rates through tools, training and relationship building is a key programmatic pillar for Lifebox.

It is not enough to say we are just doing surgery. If it’s not safe surgery with proper quality, then we’re doing nobody any good. Our focus and mission is to assure that when patients have that surgery, that it’s safe and that it’s effective.

Dr. Atul Gawande, Lifebox Co-Founder and Chair



¹ Meara, J et al, Global Surgery 2030: evidence and solutions for achieving health, welfare, and economic development, Lancet Commission 2015

² Uribe-Leitz, T et al, The Lancet Global Health 2016 4: e165-74