Written by Richard Moser, MD
I spent the past weekend in Geneva, Switzerland, representing Solidarity Bridge at the Permanent Council Meeting of the G4 Alliance. There we approved a three-year strategic plan based on the three pillars of the Alliance: Advocacy, Policy Implementation, and Resource Mobilization. Each of these will be described in more detail over the course of the coming days as the work product of this meeting is published.
Our meeting aligned with the 70th World Health Assembly, which is the deliberative and decision-making body of the World Health Organization (WHO), made up of Ministers of Health from all UN member states. They convene annually to develop a focused global health agenda.
At the opening session of the Assembly, I was struck by a sea of mixed feelings and harsh realities. The outgoing Director-General, Margaret Chen, gave her farewell address. While acknowledging the WHO shortcomings during her 10-year tenure, she pleaded that we not go gently into this emerging “post-truth” world that denies climate change and the value of vaccination, contributors to the spread and re-emergence of diseases once thought to be eliminated or controlled. The strongest critics of the WHO say that its meetings are an occasion for the rich and the powerful to gather together in expensive hotels, dining elegantly, while 5 billion people are at risk of death or severe disability at any moment for want of a surgical tool. Nevertheless, I believe that the presence of Solidarity Bridge and the G4 Alliance is a sign of hope.
Solidarity Bridge: a Sign of Hope
Throughout our 17-year history, Solidarity Bridge has been committed to working in solidarity with our Bolivian peers. Together we have tackled challenging realities in the Bolivian healthcare landscape and worked to secure training and resources that make a real impact to improve surgical care for thousands of people. We are a reminder of how good can come from collaborative efforts.
And for all its pomp and circumstance, much good has also come from the collaborative efforts of the WHO. Critical insights into the treatment of HIV and neglected tropical diseases, developed regionally and scaled globally, have improved the lives of hundreds of millions of people. Now is the time for the world to commit to advancing surgical care globally.
At present up to 18 million people die as a result of surgically treatable conditions, 81 million people are impoverished seeking surgical care every year, and 33% of the global burden of disease is attributable to surgical conditions. While marshaling the resources to provide safe surgical and anesthetic care seems daunting, our focus should remain on the 3Bs: better trained surgeons using better tools equals better outcomes for patients.
As a part of the G4 Alliance, Solidarity Bridge will be encouraging this focus at the global level. In Geneva, I saw many signs of hope. On Monday evening we held a reception for the member state delegations called: FROM COMMITMENT TO ACTION – Partnerships To Strengthen Surgical & Anesthesia Care For All. The US Health and Human Services Secretary, Thomas Price, MD, spoke of the US alignment with this goal. The African delegations spoke eloquently of both the need and challenges. There will be much work ahead, but our Mission at Solidarity Bridge is proof that through collaborative partnerships, we can advance surgical care and access for all the world’s people.
Dr. Richard Moser is Chair of the Department of Neurosurgery at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He serves as a member of the Board of Directors at Solidarity Bridge, and as the Medical Director of our Program for the Development of Neurosurgery.