Ways to improve surgical outcomes in low- and middle-income countries
Global surgery initiatives such as the Lancet Commission on Global Surgery have highlighted the need for increased investment to enhance surgical capacity in low- and middle-income countries. A neglected issue, however, is surgery-related rehabilitation, which is known to optimize functional outcomes after surgery. Increased investment to enhance surgical capacity therefore needs to be complemented by promotion of rehabilitation interventions. We make the case for strengthening surgery-related rehabilitation in lower-resource countries, outlining the challenges but also potential solutions and policy directions. Proposed solutions include greater leadership and awareness, augmented by recent global efforts around the World Health Organization’s Rehabilitation 2030 initiative, and professionalization of the rehabilitation workforce. More research on rehabilitation is needed in low- and middle-income countries, along with support for system approaches, notably on strengthening and integrating rehabilitation within the health systems. Finally, we outline a set of policy implications and recommendations, aligned to the components of the national surgical plan proposed by the Lancet Commission: infrastructure, workforce, service delivery, financing, and information management. Collaboration and sustained efforts to embed rehabilitation within national surgical plans is key to optimize health outcomes for patients with surgical conditions and ensure progress towards sustainable development goal 3: health and well-being for all.