British Parliament Revisits Importance of Surgical Care in Global Health

The British parliament revisited the role of surgical care in global health with the introduction of a short debate question presented by Lord Ribeiro on 2 July 2014.  ICES’ presence through screening the Right to Heal in the Houses of Parliament featured in the both the discussion and the call to action that followed.

Asked by Lord Ribeiro: “The purpose of this debate is to raise awareness of the value of surgery as a means of delivering effective public health.”

“To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will support the strengthening of emergency and essential surgical care and anaesthesia by the World Health Organisation to reduce the global burden of disease.”

What followed was a robust discussion about the need for Britain and other governments to support global health efforts by addressing the need for increased access to essential surgeries. Baroness Jolly summarized the debate with her statements and highlighted the importance of participation in the WHO Executive Board Meeting in January 2015.

Baroness Jolly (LD): “The noble Lord, Lord Crisp, and my noble friend Lord Ribeiro, through their work, have highlighted the importance of surgery across the whole world, and indeed it is a key part of disease prevention and treatment, and a public health good. We welcome the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global Health’s recent activity to highlight this issue, including the film “The Right to Heal”.

We very much support the strengthening of emergency and essential surgical care and anaesthesia in developing countries as a component of universal health coverage, and see it as an issue of great importance. To answer a question of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, on whether surgery can relieve many of those conditions, yes, indeed—we heard many examples in this debate, including treatment of cataracts, cleft palate and fistula.

The UK supports further consideration by the WHO executive board in January—I say that in response to my noble friend Lord Ribeiro’s first question. Action must be taken to help prevent avoidable death and disability as a result of surgery. Indeed, surgically treatable diseases are among the top 15 causes of disability worldwide. Speakers today have highlighted different examples of the appalling statistics and human suffering resulting from poor training and procedures. This position can be changed by working together. The WHO process is an important part of this work and will help commit the international community to making greater progress in raising awareness, improving data and monitoring, and increasing global collaboration on this issue.”

The full transcript of the debate can be found here.