Safe Roads, Safe Surgery: Achieving SDG 3

Traumatic injuries from road traffic incidents (RTIs) are among the top causes of death and disability worldwide.  Approximately 1.25 million die each year and an additional 20-50 million suffer non-fatal injuries as a result of road traffic accidents. Due to increased urbanization and industrialization, low and middle-income (LMIC) countries bear a disproportionate number of injury-related deaths and will continue to bear this burden until governments invest in the expansion of infrastructure and the development of roads. Improving the survival of trauma patients hinges upon timely and effective pre-hospital and hospital-based interventions, including access to safe and affordable surgical care. 

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), introduced in 2015, set 17 goals and 169 targets for the eradication of poverty, improving health, promoting education, and overall progress of humanity. SDG 3 aims to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. To achieve this ambitious goal, 13 specific targets were set, including the global reduction of morbidity and mortality from RTIs by 50% by the year 2020. Development of organized and integrated pre-hospital and emergency care systems decrease morbidity and mortality from RTIs, and surgical care is an integral part of that framework. Surgical interventions, particularly in an emergency setting, are cost-effective and pivotal in preventing long-term disability.

Without investment in the surgical systems, losses in economic productivity in LMICs will total 12.3 trillion USD by 2030.

Lack of effective political advocacy and insufficient resources continue to be major barriers to providing emergency surgical care in LMICs. Without investment in the surgical systems, losses in economic productivity in LMICs will total 12.3 trillion USD by 2030. Improvements in trauma care can save up to 2 million lives annually in these countries, but only with the effective integration of surgical care. Improving health to ensure well-being is a complex matter that necessitates societal, governmental, and economic involvement. It is a public health priority to invest in safe surgical and anesthesia care to develop a sustainable health system.

Call to Action
Over 90% of RTIs occur in LMICs, causing considerable economic losses not just to the victims and their families, but also to nations as a whole. The targets set forth in SDG 3 will not be possible without the prioritization of surgical care as an essential strategy for reducing morbidity, mortality, and disability caused by these traffic injuries.

  1. Sign on to the speed vaccine campaign to reduce traffic speeds to a level safe for children. The campaign is endorsed by leading public health figures including Michael Bloomberg, Jimmy Carter, and Margaret Chan and builds on SDG 3.6 and the Habitat III New Urban Agenda call for ‘a safe and healthy journey to school for every child as a priority.’
  2. Engage in cross-sector collaboration and report back on commitments and progress to support the SDG 3 on health and wellbeing and work towards halving road deaths by 2020;
  3. Prioritize robust investments to strengthen national health systems, ensuring that universal health coverage includes essential surgical and trauma care to save lives and prevent disability resulting from road-traffic related accidents and injuries.  

Read more about the 2017 UN HLPF Advocacy Side Event we hosted with FiA Foundation and the Global Initiative for Child Health and Mobility Here


-Dr. Maryam Saeed is a global surgery research fellow working with the G4 Alliance.