Metrics Without Borders: Advancing the Global Surgery Agenda Through Data


Journal of Public Health and Emergency


Chao Long

Date Published: December 2020
Quality Improvement
The field of global surgery has matured significantly and asserted itself as a critical constituent in the landscape of global health. Various initiatives and resolutions hallmark recent momentum, summarize agenda items, and chart a path towards maximizing the impact of surgical services in healthcare systems worldwide. We appraise the global surgery literature and emphasize the role of data in propelling the field into its current space. We use three case studies to demonstrate that current global surgery data enterprises are best understood as a series of processes and practices and not merely as a summary of statistical methodologies and outcomes. First, the rapid dissemination and timely success of the COVIDSurg Project displays the utility of web-based platforms in sustaining far-reaching collaborations. Second, the iterative adoption of standardized global surgery metrics at the World Health Organization and World Bank tells the story of political integration into the broader universe of global health. Third, the early monitoring and evaluation of the World Health Organization’s Surgical Safety Checklist demonstrates the central role of implementation science in taking interventions to scale. Taken together, these case studies exemplify how research prioritization, data collection, data analysis, and outcomes reporting represent windows of opportunity to advance the global surgery’s reach. This perspective allows us to consider critical advances in technology and health policy in the machinery of knowledge production and how data platforms will promote an agenda of collaboration, integration, and implementation in the 21st century.