GHIC 2020: Global Health & Innovation Conference
April 4-5, 2020 at Yale University and the Historic Shubert Theater
New Haven, Connecticut

Surgery and Global Health

"Expanding Surgical Care for the Bottom Billion," Selwyn Rogers, Associate Professor, Harvard Medical School

Professor Selwyn Rogers of Harvard Medical School discussed the need for communities to practice and accept surgery as a tool for fighting global health problems. Rogers introduced the traditional focus of global health on topics such as infectious diseases, nutrition, and maternal/child health. Surgery is rarely seen as a global health issue, because it has been viewed to as too expensive, too complicated to deliver, and not cost effective. However, surgery can be cost effective, and the burden of surgical diseases is actually greater than the burden from HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis combined, according to Professor Rogers. Furthermore, surgical care is a global health problem due to the high demand and low supply of surgical care. Taking obstetrics as an example, the lifetime risk of death in childbirth in Angola is 1 in 9 mothers, but in Ireland is 1 in 10,000, due to the difference in surgical care available. One promising bit of news is that most surgical services can be very cost efficient. Therefore, doctors and global health experts should not ask whether surgical care should be a global health issue, but instead should ask how to maintain sustainable partnerships with overseas institutions in order to expand the reach of surgical services.