May 24, 2017

Saving Lives through Surgery: Part Three

Written by Hunter Isgrig, Digital Campaign Producer, Crowd 360

This Conversation is the final of three in a series to underscore the importance of #safesurgery. More than 5 billion people worldwide lack access to basic surgical services. Advocates, project implementers and thought leaders from around the world are convening at the 70th World Health Assembly (May 22-31), bringing to the attention of key decision makers the needs and potential collaborative solutions for funding safe surgery initiatives around the world.

The G4 Alliance is a network of member organizations advocating for the prioritization of Safe Surgery when it comes to funding global health initiatives. The Alliance is capitalizing on opportunities such as the 70th World Health Assembly (#WHA70) to elevate the issue to key leaders and emphasizes the impact investing in surgical system strengthening will have on the global population. Brendan Allen, Executive Director of the G4 Alliance, Mira Mehes, Director of Operations, and Sarah Hamilton, Communications Officer discuss this further:

Q: Safe Surgery has historically received little attention when it comes to funding global health initiatives. From a coalition and advocacy perspective, what are we doing today to ensure progress is advancing?

“We started the G4 Alliance as a collective response to the increasing global need for surgical, obstetric, trauma, and anaesthesia care. It’s estimated that 70% of the world does not have access to safe, affordable surgical and anaesthesia care. A staggering 18 million people die each year as a result of surgically preventable conditions; that’s more than HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB combined.  While this reflects the successful response of the global health community to address infectious diseases, it also highlights the increasing prevalence of untreated surgical conditions, which represent approximately ⅓ of the global burden of disease.

The G4 member network is united in the belief that surgery is not a luxury and that we can find cost-effective and innovative solutions to address the global surgery gap. We focus our efforts on three main pillars: advocacy, policy, and resource mobilization.

Strategies for making sure that we are progressing the issue of safe surgery include:

  • Shifting the way we think and talk about safe surgery: Changing public perceptions about safe surgery will be an important strategy to encourage people to view surgery as a public health intervention that is a cost-effective and essential component of primary health care. One of the most effective ways to do this is to share real-world examples of surgical patients around the world and to highlight the life-changing impact of simple surgical interventions.
  • Cross-cutting collaborations: Addressing the challenge of safe surgery for the neglected 5 billion will require that all stakeholders have a seat around the table. The G4 Alliance believes that cross-sector collaborations are key. Collaboration between government and civil society, including NGOs, private sector, academic institutions, health care providers and patients will be critical to building priority for this issue and collectively developing solutions. One example of a cross-cutting collaboration is the Safe Surgery 2020 initiative—they work with ministries of health to accelerate improvements in surgical access and safety through programs in leadership development, innovation, and data.
  • Supporting health workers: The delivery of safe surgical care requires leadership and coordination across health care providers. Supporting surgical teams, including surgeons, nurses, midwives, non-surgeon providers, administrators and the technical staff that work together to ensure that hospitals and health systems run smoothly, represents an essential strategy for supporting safe surgical care.

Our network is motivated by the reality that without safe surgery and anaesthesia we will not achieve universal health coverage or fulfill the Sustainable Development Goals. Without investment in surgical care, millions will continue to suffer needless deaths, disabilities, and related financial catastrophe every year, as a result of untreated preventable surgical conditions.”

Q: How can the World Health Assembly support in further advocating for more safe surgery funding?

“Two years ago, 194 WHO Member States unanimously approved World Health Assembly (WHA) Resolution 68.15 recognizing the importance of strengthening emergency and essential surgical care & anaesthesia as a component of universal health coverage. This resolution highlighted key priority areas for supporting and financing surgical care and outlined responsibilities for the WHO Member States and the Director General.

At the 70th WHA this May, Member States and the Director General will be called upon to report back on progress to support Resolution 68.15. This represents a unique opportunity for members of civil society to make sure their voices are heard!  This year, we expect to see a proposed follow-up to the resolution presented by the Zambian delegation calling the Director General to continue reporting on surgical and anaesthesia progress every three years until 2030. This request would ensure that surgery stays on the WHA agenda and that our surgical and anaesthesia targets align more closely with the Sustainable Development Goals.

Safe surgery funding will require partnerships between governments and civil society, and the effective utilization of that funding will require national, regional, and international collaboration. The WHO and the delegations at the WHA are in a unique position to facilitate these partnerships to ensure that both that funding is prioritized and that it is invested into programs that will have the largest impact in providing safe surgical and anaesthesia care for all.”


This concludes our Conversation series but if you want to stay up to date with the latest conversations and activities around safe surgery? Check out #SafeSurgery as well as exploring our most recent Twitter chat with the G4 Alliance, Johnson & Johnson, Jhpiego, and Seed Global Health!

Read part one of the series >>
Read part two of the series >>