“Surgical Care Required for Populations Affected by Climate-related…”
Along with colleagues from University of Southern California, Los Angeles, University of Washington, University ofCalifornia, Irvine, Harvard University, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health professors Eugenia Lee, Adam Kushner, and Yuanting Zha published an article on the demand for surgical care from natural disasters related to climate change.
Climate extremes will increase the frequency and severity of natural disasters worldwide. Climate-related natural disasters were anticipated to affect 375 million people in 2015, more than 50% greater than the yearly average in the previous decade. To inform surgical assistance preparedness, we estimated the number of surgical procedures needed.
The numbers of people affected by climate-related disasters from 2004 to 2014 were obtained from the Centre for Research of the Epidemiology of Disasters database. Using 5,000 procedures per 100,000 persons as the minimum, baseline estimates were calculated. A linear regression of the number of surgical procedures performed annually and the estimated number of surgical procedures required for climate-related natural disasters was performed.
Approximately 140 million people were affected by climate-related natural disasters annually requiring 7.0 million surgical procedures. The greatest need for surgical care was in the People’s Republic of China, India, and the Philippines. Linear regression demonstrated a poor relationship between national surgical capacity and estimated need for surgical care resulting from natural disaster, but countries with the least surgical capacity will have the greatest need for surgical care for persons affected by climate-related natural disasters.
As climate extremes increase the frequency and severity of natural disasters, millions will need surgical care beyond baseline needs. Countries with insufficient surgical capacity will have the most need for surgical care for persons affected by climate-related natural disasters. Estimates of surgical are particularly important for countries least equipped to meet surgical care demands given critical human and physical resource deficiencies.
Snippet of the discussion:
As climate extremes increase the frequency and severity of natural disasters, hundreds of millions of people will be affected and millions will need surgical care beyond baseline needs. Currently, countries with insufficient surgical capacity are expected to have the most need for surgical care for persons affected by climate-related natural disasters. Estimates of surgical need are important as they inform national policy, humanitarian assistance programs, and implementing partners, as well as support surgical advocacy. Such estimates are particularly important for low- and middle-income countries, which are least equipped to meet surgical care demands given critical human and physical resource deficiencies.6
Currently, it is difficult to contextualize our findings as other published data on this topic do not exist. However, an example from a natural disaster demonstrates the importance of estimating potential surgical need and preparing humanitarian and national surgical capacity. In April and May of 2015, the Nepal earthquakes directly affected 5.6 million people3 whose surgical needs included an estimated 281,605 procedures. However, the entire natural surgical capacity is less than 100,000 procedures per year (95% confidence interval 80,532 to 96,432 operations annually).5 Furthermore, healthcare infrastructure was destroyed by the earthquakes, which crippled the local capability to meet surgical needs. This example demonstrates that without dedicated efforts to increase humanitarian surgical preparedness globally and national capacity in vulnerable nations, victims of future disasters will encounter similar deficiencies.
Learn more about the authors here:
- Eugenia L. Lee | Department of Surgery, University of Southern California, Los Angeles; Department of International Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
- Barclay Stewart | Department of Surgery, University of Washington, Seattle; School of Medical Sciences, Kwame Nkrumah University; Department of Interdisciplinary Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town
- Yuanting A. Zha | University of California, Irvine School of Medicine; Department of International Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
- Thomas A. Groen | Department of Natural Resources, Universiteit Twente
- Frederick M. Burkle Jr. | Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, Harvard University
- Adam L. Kushner | Surgeons OverSeas, New York; Department of International Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; Department of Surgery, Columbia University