#InequalityIs 5 Billion People Living Without Access to Life-Saving Surgical Care

The Ford Foundation recently launched a social media campaign using the hashtag “InequalityIs,” calling for a conversation about inequality in all its forms. Notable CEOs, activists, and artists have shared their experiences with inequality, which often drove these visionaries to achieve personal goals and contribute to meaningful societal improvement. For the G4 Alliance and its members, inequality is a lack of access to safe, affordable surgical, obstetric, trauma, and anaesthesia care for five billion people worldwide.

#Inequalityis: 18.6 million people dying every year because they don’t have access to basic surgical care

Around the world, 5 billion people don’t have access to safe, affordable and life-saving surgical and anaesthesia care [1]. That means that five out of every seven people worldwide cannot access safe, affordable surgical and anaesthesia care when needed.  And the poorest 1/3 of the global population – nearly 2.5 billion people – receives only 6% of all surgical procedures. When left untreated, relatively easy-to-manage surgical conditions including appendicitis, fractures, or obstructed labor can lead to disability and even death. This health inequality represents a critical and complex public health challenge that disproportionately impacts the most marginalized individuals: women, children, elderly and vulnerable populations.

#InequalityIs: 280,000 women dying each year simply because they cannot access essential care during childbirth

Maternal mortality continues to challenge societies worldwide, despite strong efforts to improve maternal and child health by the UN Millennium Development Goals. Investing in prenatal care and reducing maternal mortality rates translates to increased economic potential for women, as well as reduced costs and emotional burdens to families and communities. It takes something as simple as timely detection of complications – coupled with obstetric surgery – to save the lives of up to 90 percent of women who would otherwise die in childbirth.

#Inequalityis: Developing countries experiencing a 70% increase in disability and premature deaths due to cancer by 2035

A sharp decrease in premature deaths due to cancer is forecasted in developed countries over the next 20 years as research, government and philanthropic funding, and advocacy efforts continue to yield promising developments in treatment and care. Seeing an increase in premature deaths from cancer in developing countries is alarming and highlights a need for collaboration between academics, practitioners, and health ministries in developed and developing countries. Sixty percent of cancers will require surgical intervention to treat, which exacerbates the need for accessible surgical care and anaesthesia in the long term.

#Inequalityis: 95 million children living with a birth defect or injury

Less than 10% of children living with a disability resulting from an untreated childbirth condition or injury attend school.  This means that over 85 million children are missing out on education and a chance to have a productive future because they cannot access essential disability-preventing surgical care. 

Road traffic accidents are among the leading causes of global death and disability, with 90% of these deaths occurring in developing countries where paved roads can be scarce and traffic regulations go unenforced. Children often fall victim to road traffic accidents while walking to and from school. Each day 500 children die walking to and from school due to road traffic accidents. Thousands more are injured every day. Immediate and effective trauma care following a road traffic accident is essential to increase the chance of survival for the victim. Especially in rural settings, a responsive trauma unit may not exist or have the capacity to administer care quickly enough, resulting in unnecessary death.

Why Focus on Inequality?

The G4 Alliance is driven by a need to change the status quo. Inaction is no longer an option. Inequality cannot define our global health system; we must quantify the challenges, think critically about solutions, and be innovative in our approach to implementing large-scale change. Billions of lives are depending on this.

[1] Meara, John G et al. (2015). Global Surgery 2030: evidence and solutions for achieving health, welfare, and economic development. The Lancet , 386(9993):569 – 624.