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Pacific Coast Surgical Association
September 2015

The Emergence and Future of Global Surgery in the United States

Author Affiliations
  • 1Global Health Sciences, University of California, San Francisco
  • 2Department of Surgery, University of California, San Francisco
JAMA Surg. 2015;150(9):833-834. doi:10.1001/jamasurg.2015.0898

Global surgery is evolving into a new field of study with breathtaking speed. It is being increasingly recognized as an important component of global health. Recent studies estimate that some 18% of the total burden of disease is surgical and that 1.4 million deaths could be averted annually by basic essential surgery.1 At least 2 billion people lack access to essential surgery.2 Of the roughly 250 million operations performed each year, only 3.5% are performed on the poorest third of the world’s population.3 Bickler et al1 estimated that at least 77.2 million disability-adjusted life years could be averted annually by the provision of essential, life-saving surgery. In my opinion, without the provision of affordable, accessible essential surgical services in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), the lofty goals of the Global Health 2035 report by the Lancet Commission on Investing in Health,4 which postulated that a grand convergence in health is achievable in our lifetime, will not be possible. What needs to be done? Before I try to answer this question, I will describe recent developments in global surgery to give context to the discussion.

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