Emergency care serves a key function within health care systems by providing an entry point to health care and by decreasing morbidity and mortality. Although primarily focused on evaluation and treatment for acute conditions, emergency care also serves as an important locus of provision for preventive care with regard to injuries and disease progression. Despite its important and increasing role, however, emergency care has been frequently overlooked in the discussion of health systems and delivery platforms, particularly in developing countries. Little research has been done in lower- and middle-income countries on the burden of disease reduction attributable to emergency care, whether through injury treatment and prevention, urgent and emergency treatment of acute conditions, or emergency treatment of complications from chronic conditions. There is a critical need for research documenting the role of emergency care services in reducing the global burden of disease. In addition to applying existing methodologies toward this aim, new methodologies should be developed to determine the cost-effectiveness of these interventions and how to effectively cover the costs of and demands for emergency care needs. These analyses could be used to emphasize the public health and clinical importance of emergency care within health systems as policymakers determine health and budgeting priorities in resource-limited settings.
2009 American College of Emergency Physicians. Published by Mosby, Inc. All rights reserved.