Population mapping helps measure access to surgery in Africa

November 30, 2018, University of Southampton
Population mapping helps measure access to surgery in Africa
Credit: NASA

Research examining pressure on surgical units in sub-Saharan African countries estimates nearly 300 million people have a need for surgery in the region, placing a heavy burden on hospitals.

The study by researchers from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), WorldPop at the University of Southampton, the Technical University of Munich, Kenya Medical Research Institute, Wellcome Trust and Harvard Medical School, assessed access to for people in 47 African countries.

The team sourced information from satellite imagery, government statistics, charitable organisations, surveys and census. This enabled them to help work out where people live and in what numbers, the location and number of hospitals with provision, the nature of the road infrastructure and the shape of the landscape.

By compiling and combining all this data, the researchers were able to create detailed, layered, geospatial maps (1 by 1km grid square level) giving insights into density and the burden of surgical needs on medical centres – extremely valuable information for infrastructure planners.

The researchers found that an estimated 257 to 294 million people (of all ages) have a need for surgery in sub-Saharan Africa, out of a total population of just over one billion. The estimated need in children under 15 years was 115 to 131 million (distributed over similar geographical areas to the 'all ages' group).

The study, published in BMJ Global Health, also shows the majority (approx. 93 per cent) of the population live in areas within two hours of a major that could theoretically carry out three basic surgical procedures – laparotomy, caesarean section and open fracture treatment. In most countries, 80 per cent of children were within the two hour window, with the exception of Angola and Eritrea. However, the authors stress that the research doesn't examine the surgical capability of individual hospitals and that further assessments would be needed to establish their capacity to provide timely, safe and affordable surgery.

Director of WorldPop, Professor Andy Tatem of the School of Geography and Environmental Science at the University of Southampton, says: "An estimated five billion people around the world don't have access to basic, safe, surgical care. Based on the case of sub-Saharan Africa, we have used geospatial mapping techniques to provide a precise picture of the pressure facing hospitals to provide this kind of access for local populations. We hope our research can now help policy and decision makers to plan for the future and improve surgery provision in places where it is most needed."

Explore further: Inadequate surgical provision in African district general hospitals

More information: Sabrina Juran et al. Geospatial mapping of access to timely essential surgery in sub-Saharan Africa, BMJ Global Health (2018). DOI: 10.1136/bmjgh-2018-000875

Related Stories

Inadequate surgical provision in African district general hospitals

March 9, 2010
Two papers published this week in PLoS Medicine by Margaret Kruk and colleagues investigate surgical provision in eight district hospitals in three sub-Saharan African countries. The authors, from the USA and Africa, show ...

One-third of hospitals in developing world lack running water

June 22, 2016
A study of 430 hospitals in the developing world found that more than one-third lacked running water, a deficiency that can lead to unsanitary conditions for patients in general and dangerous conditions for those who need ...

Distance to nearest pediatric surgeon a potential barrier for millions of US children

November 2, 2018
Children who need surgery, statistics show, have fewer complications when it's performed by doctors with specialized pediatric surgical training in regionalized centers where a high a volume of procedures are performed. But ...

New Anaesthesia Workforce Map shows huge shortages impacting 5 billion people worldwide

May 24, 2017
Today the World Federation of Societies of Anaesthesiologists (WFSA) officially launched a landmark online resource tool mapping the total number of anaesthesia providers worldwide. A high number of countries reported a total ...

Surgical expenses cause financial catastrophe for millions each year

July 19, 2016
According to an analysis of publicly available data from 186 countries, direct medical costs of surgery put an estimated 43.9 per cent of the world's population at risk of financial catastrophe and between 30.8 and 57.0 per ...

New technologies and computing power to help strengthen population data in low income countries

March 21, 2018
Research led by the University of Southampton is helping governments in low-income countries strengthen their capacity to build and use population maps, to plan for the future and respond to emergencies.

Recommended for you

Researchers explore new way of killing malaria in the liver

December 8, 2018
In the ongoing hunt for more effective weapons against malaria, international researchers said Thursday they are exploring a pathway that has until now been little studied—killing parasites in the liver, before the illness ...

Study may offer doctors a more effective way to treat neuroblastoma

December 7, 2018
A very large team of researchers, mostly from multiple institutions across Germany, has found what might be a better way to treat patients with neuroblastoma, a type of cancer. In their paper published in the journal Science, ...

Progress made in transplanting pig hearts into baboons

December 6, 2018
A large team of researchers from several institutions in Germany, Sweden, Switzerland and the U.S. has transplanted pig hearts into baboons and kept them alive for an extended period of time. In their paper published in the ...

'Chemo brain' caused by malfunction in three types of brain cells, study finds

December 6, 2018
More than half of cancer survivors suffer from cognitive impairment from chemotherapy that lingers for months or years after the cancer is gone. In a new study explaining the cellular mechanisms behind this condition, scientists ...

Hybrid prevalence estimation: Method to improve intervention coverage estimations

December 6, 2018
LSTM's Professor Joseph Valadez is senior author on a new study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which outlines proposals for a more accurate estimator of health data.

World's smallest wearable device warns of UV exposure, enables precision phototherapy

December 5, 2018
The world's smallest wearable, battery-free device has been developed by Northwestern Medicine and Northwestern's McCormick School of Engineering scientists to measure exposure to light across multiple wavelengths, from the ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.