Global economic consequences of selected surgical diseases: a modelling study

Lancet Glob Health. 2015 Apr 27;3 Suppl 2(Suppl 2):S21-7. doi: 10.1016/S2214-109X(15)70088-4.


Background: The surgical burden of disease is substantial, but little is known about the associated economic consequences. We estimate the global macroeconomic impact of the surgical burden of disease due to injury, neoplasm, digestive diseases, and maternal and neonatal disorders from two distinct economic perspectives.

Methods: We obtained mortality rate estimates for each disease for the years 2000 and 2010 from the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation Global Burden of Disease 2010 study, and estimates of the proportion of the burden of the selected diseases that is surgical from a paper by Shrime and colleagues. We first used the value of lost output (VLO) approach, based on the WHO's Projecting the Economic Cost of Ill-Health (EPIC) model, to project annual market economy losses due to these surgical diseases during 2015-30. EPIC attempts to model how disease affects a country's projected labour force and capital stock, which in turn are related to losses in economic output, or gross domestic product (GDP). We then used the value of lost welfare (VLW) approach, which is conceptually based on the value of a statistical life and is inclusive of non-market losses, to estimate the present value of long-run welfare losses resulting from mortality and short-run welfare losses resulting from morbidity incurred during 2010. Sensitivity analyses were performed for both approaches.

Findings: During 2015-30, the VLO approach projected that surgical conditions would result in losses of 1·25% of potential GDP, or $20·7 trillion (2010 US$, purchasing power parity) in the 128 countries with data available. When expressed as a proportion of potential GDP, annual GDP losses were greatest in low-income and middle-income countries, with up to a 2·5% loss in output by 2030. When total welfare losses are assessed (VLW), the present value of economic losses is estimated to be equivalent to 17% of 2010 GDP, or $14·5 trillion in the 175 countries assessed with this approach. Neoplasm and injury account for greater than 95% of total economic losses with each approach, but maternal, digestive, and neonatal disorders, which represent only 4% of losses in high-income countries with the VLW approach, contribute to 26% of losses in low-income countries.

Interpretation: The macroeconomic impact of surgical disease is substantial and inequitably distributed. When paired with the growing number of favourable cost-effectiveness analyses of surgical interventions in low-income and middle-income countries, our results suggest that building surgical capacity should be a global health priority.

Funding: US National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cost of Illness*
  • Digestive System Diseases / economics
  • Digestive System Diseases / mortality
  • Digestive System Diseases / surgery
  • Global Health*
  • Gross Domestic Product
  • Health Expenditures*
  • Humans
  • Maternal Health Services / economics
  • Neoplasms / economics
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / surgery
  • Surgical Procedures, Operative / economics*
  • Wounds and Injuries / economics
  • Wounds and Injuries / mortality
  • Wounds and Injuries / surgery