It might seem surprising to many that surgery is a very common event, even in the poorest countries in the world. It is estimated that roughly 234 million surgical events take place every year – more than the number of child births. It has also estimated that surgical conditions – conditions that can be treated by surgery – account for over 10% of the total burden of disease – more than most attention grabbing conditions that have made their way into the MDGs. Yet despite this, surgery has more or less been ignored by the public health community – seen as an evil “tertiary” procedure. But surgery provides lifesaving treatment to millions of people worldwide.

Part of the reason the area is so neglected, is there are not standardized metrics to monitor surgery related service delivery. Data is rarely collected in facilities, therefore the importance of the procedures rarely enters in policy makers minds. A new publication in this week’s surgery themed edition of the Lancet calls for greater attention for the use of standardized surgery metrics.

Here are some of the metrics that the authors propose and evaluate the feasibility of measuring:

* Number of operating rooms

* Number of accredited surgeons and number of accredited anaesthesia professionals

* Number of surgical procedures done in an operating room per year

* Day-of-surgery death ratio

* Postoperative in-hospital death ratio

I really applaud such efforts. The value of such information would be tremendous for many countries, would provide stronger rationale for further investments into medical education, and would go a long way to improving population health – even in the poorest countries in the world.

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