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Looking At The Global Impact Of Communities That Can't Afford Basic Healthcare

For many Americans --  especially those who are in need of top tier pharmaceuticals -- it is extremely difficult to sit back and watch as drug prices continue to skyrocket. Having little control, and even less influence over medical industry standards is, at the very least, frustrating. So for those who sympathize with the current economical state of affairs taking place within the U.S. medical industry, imagine the pain and frustration of the poorest 1/3 percent of the world’s population. Many communities are unable to support even the most basic surgeries necessary to prevent death.

Across the globe there are billions of people who, like the rest of us, have families, friends, a favorite sports team, a significant other, and maybe even a pet. Except unlike most of the individuals who have the ability to access this article, the billions of individuals I’m talking about lack fundamental resources that are widely available to the rest of the civilized world, according to the WHO.

Out of the 250 million operations that are performed each year, only 3.5 percent are performed in low-income and middle-income countries (LMICs). In 2010 alone, there were an estimated 16.9 million lives lost from conditions requiring surgical care. This issue is inherently ethical, but it also has serious economic repercussions that has a huge influence on the rest of the world.

In order prevent further unnecessary lives lost and additional economic disparities, these LMICs need urgent investment in the scale-up of surgical services. With an initiative being led by the Lancet Commission on global surgery, this issue has been addressed and may very well be resolved by the year 2030.

The Lancet Commission on global surgery was orchestrated in 2013 after a group of surgeons approached the Lancet about the neglected role of surgery in public health.

Upon hearing their case, the Lancet established a board that consisted of a diverse group of 22 Commissioners led by three co-chairman: Dr. John G Meara at Harvard Medical School, Mr. Andy Leather at King’s College London, and Dr. Lars Hagander at Lund University. With collaborators from 110 different countries the Lancet Commission on global surgery represents individuals from professional societies, government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and academic institutions in 14 countries.

They have set out to study the economics of surgical and anesthesia care delivery and ultimately hope to provide universal access to these resources when needed.

In 2014, the Commission released a journal that laid out the details of how they were going to accomplish their mission. The following is a shorthand list of their five goals:

  1. Strengthen surgical services and the national health systems in LMICs.

  2. Establish organisations to develop and monitor both new and existing health goals.

  3. Establish funding agencies to invest in surgical care to alleviate general welfare costs.

  4. Collaborate with international partners to support local leaders and their goals to provide equitable surgical care.

  5. Emphasize the importance of the Commission’s goals to the public in an effort to receive additional support for universal surgical services.

Through four dimensions of access -- timeliness, surgical capacity, safety, and affordability -- the commission plans to reduce individual disease, strengthen overall health and revitalize economic productivity of low-income and middle-income countries.

This will by no means be an easy transition. Everyone from policy makers, implementers and funders to healthcare professionals, government agencies and the general public can provide support for this initiative. While 14 years may seem like a lifetime away, every step is incremental and requires prudent attention.

Aptly named, Enclothed Cognition is the official Medelita blog for medical professionals interested in topics relevant to a discerning and inquisitive audience. Medelita was founded by a licensed clinician who felt strongly about the connection between focus, poise and appearance.