Broken bones often mean lifelong disability in the developing world, due to a lack of access to simple, inexpensive initial treatment, says the director of the University of Toronto's international surgery program.
"Falls are the leading cause of disease burden among children between ages five and 14 in low- and middle-income countries, followed by road traffic injuries," says Dr. Massey Beveridge, a professor in U of T's Department of Surgery and a burn surgeon at Sunnybrook and Women's College Health Sciences Centre. "For each person who dies from trauma, three to eight more are permanently disabled."
By 2020, 20 per cent of all illness will be attributable to injury, compared to 12 per cent today, notes Beveridge in a study published in the August 2004 issue of the Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery. Road traffic deaths already are the second leading cause of death for people ages 15 to 45 in low-income countries.
An estimated 10 per cent of all deaths in developing countries could be prevented with access to simple surgical and obstetrical procedures, but in East Africa, for instance, there are a paltry 400 surgeons serving 200 million people. In addition, most of the global funding to date has focused on communicable diseases and nutrition rather than injury, says Beveridge.
"We in the developed world must support efforts in developing countries to train more orthopedic surgeons and to educate frontline health-care workers in the appropriate treatment of orthopedic patients," says Beveridge. "Common sense and dire need demand that such measures not be ignored."
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