According to a recent study which can be found in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization, access to surgery is increasing at an accelerated pace and yet there remains a clear discrepancy between poor and rich countries.
Aside from a low access to surgical procedures, people from poor countries also experience the highest percentage of post-surgery complications.
The authors of the study discovered that in 2012 there were approximately 312.9 million operations performed globally, which was 38% more than the total number of operations done in 2004.
Despite such a high increase, only 30% of these surgeries were performed in countries that contribute less than $400 on health care per capita per year. This means that 5 billion people or 71% of the world’s population did not have access to surgeries in 2012.
Dr. Thomas Weiser, who is an assistant professor of surgery at Stanford University Medical Center, highlights the huge disparity that exists in the world’s provision of surgery. Their study reveals there is an unmet need for anesthetic care and surgical procedures in many countries around the world.
Dr. Weiser points out that surgical care is in many cases a life-saving procedure and it also prevents disabilities caused by injuries, cancers, infections and even maternal conditions.
The researchers’ study also revealed another important discrepancy. Out of the 194 World Health Organization member countries, only 66 had registered data on surgeries, which means that for the rest of the countries the researchers had to extrapolate.
In terms of health spending, very low expenditure was defined by researchers as US $100 or less, low expenditure was placed between US $101-400, middle expenditure between US $401-1000 and high expenditure was considered over US $1000.
One of the other issues revealed by this study is the global discrepancy with respect to caesarean deliveries. As it turns out, these procedures represent almost 30% of the total number of surgeries from the very low expenditure countries, but only 3% in the 44 high expenditure countries.
According to Dr. Walter Johnson, coordinator of WHO’s Emergency and Essential Surgical Care Programme, even though low and middle-income countries are performing a wide number of caesarian sections, they are still lacking emergency and life-saving surgical care, which marks a certain degree of misplaced priorities by governments.
In May 2015 the World Health Assembly adopted resolution 68.15, which calls on countries to include surgical care into their health systems, as another step towards achieving universal health coverage.
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