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Franco Servadei, Miguel A. Arráez, Jincao Chen, John G. Golfinos, and Mahmood M. Qureshi

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Gail Rosseau, Walter D. Johnson, Kee B. Park, Miguel Arráez Sánchez, Franco Servadei, and Kerry A. Vaughan

Since the creation of the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1948, the annual World Health Assembly (WHA) has been the major forum for discussion, debate, and approval of the global health agenda. As such, it informs the framework for the policies and budgets of many of its Member States. For most of its history, a significant portion of the attention of health ministers and Member States has been given to issues of clean water, vaccination, and communicable diseases. For neurosurgeons, the adoption of WHA Resolution 68.15 changed the global health landscape because the importance of surgical care for universal health coverage was highlighted in the document. This resolution was adopted in 2015, shortly after the publication of The Lancet Commission on Global Surgery Report titled “Global Surgery 2030: evidence and solutions for achieving health, welfare and economic development.” Mandating global strengthening of emergency and essential surgical care and anesthesia, this resolution has led to the formation of surgical and anesthesia collaborations that center on WHO and can be facilitated via the WHA. Participation by neurosurgeons has grown dramatically, in part due to the official relations between WHO and the World Federation of Neurosurgical Societies, with the result that global neurosurgery is gaining momentum.

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Michael C. Dewan, Abbas Rattani, Graham Fieggen, Miguel A. Arraez, Franco Servadei, Frederick A. Boop, Walter D. Johnson, Benjamin C. Warf, and Kee B. Park

OBJECTIVE

Worldwide disparities in the provision of surgical care result in otherwise preventable disability and death. There is a growing need to quantify the global burden of neurosurgical disease specifically, and the workforce necessary to meet this demand.

METHODS

Results from a multinational collaborative effort to describe the global neurosurgical burden were aggregated and summarized. First, country registries, third-party modeled data, and meta-analyzed published data were combined to generate incidence and volume figures for 10 common neurosurgical conditions. Next, a global mapping survey was performed to identify the number and location of neurosurgeons in each country. Finally, a practitioner survey was conducted to quantify the proportion of disease requiring surgery, as well as the median number of neurosurgical cases per annum. The neurosurgical case deficit was calculated as the difference between the volume of essential neurosurgical cases and the existing neurosurgical workforce capacity.

RESULTS

Every year, an estimated 22.6 million patients suffer from neurological disorders or injuries that warrant the expertise of a neurosurgeon, of whom 13.8 million require surgery. Traumatic brain injury, stroke-related conditions, tumors, hydrocephalus, and epilepsy constitute the majority of essential neurosurgical care worldwide. Approximately 23,300 additional neurosurgeons are needed to address more than 5 million essential neurosurgical cases—all in low- and middle-income countries—that go unmet each year. There exists a gross disparity in the allocation of the surgical workforce, leaving large geographic treatment gaps, particularly in Africa and Southeast Asia.

CONCLUSIONS

Each year, more than 5 million individuals suffering from treatable neurosurgical conditions will never undergo therapeutic surgical intervention. Populations in Africa and Southeast Asia, where the proportion of neurosurgeons to neurosurgical disease is critically low, are especially at risk. Increasing access to essential neurosurgical care in low- and middle-income countries via neurosurgical workforce expansion as part of surgical system strengthening is necessary to prevent severe disability and death for millions with neurological disease.