UNGA Advocacy Event Surgery's Essential Role for Achieving Health for All

During the 71st UN General Assembly, the G4 Alliance along with the GE Foundation and Safe Surgery 2020 hosted “Roadmap to 2030: Surgery’s Essential Role in Achieving Health for All." This advocacy event focused on safe surgery and its place within the healthcare system as well as the sustainable development agenda.

The event featured an interactive discussion with special guest speakers as well as a lively audience Q&A session. Dr. David Barash, Chief Medical Officer and Executive Director of Global Health for the GE Foundation moderated the discussion and was joined by a robust panel including Dr. Leslie Mancuso (President and CEO of Jhpiego), Mr. Pape Gaye (CEO and President of IntraHealth International),   Dr. Alex Hannenberg (Founding Board Member of Lifebox USA), Prof. Diana Ayton-Shenker (Founder and CEO of Philanthropy & Social Impact Strategy).

Special guest speakers included the Honorable Ms. Pirkko Mattila, Minister of Social Affairs and Health for Finland and H.E. Ambassador Dr. Neil Parsan, Executive Secretary for Integral Development with the Organization of American States. 

Dr. David Barash (GE Foundation), Dr. Leslie Mancuso (CEO, Jhpiego) engage in an interactive discussion. 

Dr. David Barash (GE Foundation), Dr. Leslie Mancuso (CEO, Jhpiego) engage in an interactive discussion. 

According to Leslie Mancuso, president and CEO of Jhpiego -an international health organization and G4 member - focusing on strengthening health systems represents "the only way we can achieve the goals we are trying to achieve around universal health coverage and SDGs…improving health systems and improving surgical capacity has to be addressed at the global level, the national level" and the local level." 

Building on this theme, Mr. Pape Gaye, president and CEO of IntraHealth and also a member of the G4 Alliance challenged the audience. " I think we need to be a little bit more innovative and strategic in the way we look at training.  We need to look at a team approach to training, rather than focusing on this cadre by cadre, promoting this idea that it is going to take a team of doctors, midwives, community health workers."


Dr. Barash opened the session with a powerful appeal for investment in safe surgical care: “We believe, along with our partners, that tackling the challenge of secure, safe, affordable, timely access to surgery is the right big bet, it’s the right big bet to transform health systems, and to transform care delivery globally. We did this because we believe the impact goes way beyond the impact of safe surgery itself.” 

The main overview of the discussion centered around the importance of investing in safe global surgery, highlighting the progress that has been made to date, and identifying opportunities to also help propel action towards achieving the sustainable development goals and health for all.  Major themes focused on practical action surrounding: national surgical planning, adapting solutions to local needs, and financing. 


Dr. Alex Hannenburg emphasized, “We are concerned not only about the 5 billion without access to surgery but also for those who undergo surgery under unsafe conditions and are at risk for preventable death and disability. Increasing access and volume of surgery carries with it an absolute imperative to improve the safety of the surgical care provided.”

Rounding off the panel, Professor Diana Ayton-Shenker provided an overview of the opportunities for investing in safe surgical care as part of the sustainable development goals. She encouraged the audience to think outside the box, identifying a role for entrepreneurs who can "innovate new ways of thinking about our social problems as professional opportunities that we apply best practices from business, from private sector, married with the best purposes of government and the public sector, to enterprise and innovate new ways of solving problems but also continuing to engage with those opportunities."

As the panel wrapped up a call was made to all stakeholders to endorse a target of safe surgical care for 80% by 2030.  

Following the discussion, those present were invited to share their commitment to surgery as part of the #ICommit2Surgery campaign. 

The event was graphically recorded by artist Tracy Berglund who visually depicted the discussions in a beautiful mural.

The event was graphically recorded by artist Tracy Berglund who visually depicted the discussions in a beautiful mural.