Effect of Coronavirus Disease 2019 and Pandemics on Global Surgical Outreach

The ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has led to a health care crisis, changing billions of lives worldwide. The ramifications of the contagion will likely be felt for the foreseeable future and will undoubtedly have a momentous effect on health care. While recent publications have focused on optimizing health care delivery, patient care, and physician safety in the setting of COVID-19, not much has been discussed regarding the effect on surgical global health programs (SGHPs).

Prior to the novel coronavirus outbreak from Wuhan, China, SGHPs played an important role in delivering care to low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Such mission trips have long been a staple for facial plastic surgeons, plastic surgeons, and otolaryngologists–head and neck surgeons.1 Humanitarian organizations perform more than 250 000 procedures globally per year. Despite the volume of care provided, LMICs continue to demonstrate significant unmet surgical needs. While one-third of the global population inhabits LMICs, only 3% to 6% of operations occur there. From a global health perspective, access to surgical services have been cited as integral to minimizing patient morbidity and mortality.Economically, it is estimated that lack of access to surgical services in LMICs may contribute to cumulative losses of $20.7 trillion to the global economy from 2015 to 2030. During this uncertain time, SGHPs ought to consider how they may aid in the ongoing crisis and to consider the short- and long-term effects on global surgical outreach.