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Surgical expenses are financial catastrophe for millions each year

Staff Writer |
According to an analysis of data from 186 countries, direct medical costs of surgery put an estimated 43.9 percent of the world's population at risk of financial catastrophe.

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Between 30.8 and 57 percent is at risk of falling below national and international poverty lines.

Direct medical expenditures on surgery will push approximately 30 million individuals into financial catastrophe and 11 million below their country's poverty line every year.

"Five billion people around the world lack access to safe, affordable, and timely surgery; fixing this problem should be a global health priority. However, this research highlights the fact that surgery is expensive and can drive patients into financial destitution," said Dr. Mark Shrime, lead author of the British Journal of Surgery study.

"Scaling up surgical systems to meet the unmet need of the 5 billion should not happen at the cost of scaling up financial catastrophe."

A study from 2015 showed that millions of people are dying from common, easily treatable conditions like appendicitis, fractures, or obstructed labour because they do not have access to, or can't afford, proper surgical care, according to a major new Commission, published in The Lancet.

The Commission reveals that five billion people worldwide do not have access to safe and affordable surgery and anaesthesia when they need it, and access is worst in low-income and lower-middle income countries, where as many as nine out of ten people cannot access basic surgical care.

Just under a third of all deaths in 2010 (32·9%, 16·9 million deaths) were from conditions treatable with surgery - well surpassing the number of deaths from HIV / AIDS, TB, and malaria combined.

Yet, despite this enormous burden of death and illness - which is largely borne by the world's poorest people - surgery has, until now, been overlooked as a critical need for the health of the world's population.

As a result, untreated surgical conditions have exerted substantial but largely unrecognized negative effects on human health, welfare, and economic development.


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