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March 10 , 2010

Operation Health

Surgical Care in the Developing World


A teenage mother arrives by donkey cart to a hospital after attempting to deliver her baby in the bush. A young father faces the loss of a leg after receiving a gunshot wound that will not heal. A man walks miles to a hospital for a pain in his side caused by an appendix that burst five days earlier. Without access to surgical resources, millions of people with conditions like these become disabled or die.

In Operation Health, Adam L. Kushner argues that not only are severe medical conditions— like a strangulated hernia or obstetric fistula—treatable by surgical means in low-income countries; they are, in fact, surgically preventable. Although the World Bank estimates that 11 percent of the global disease burden is treatable by surgery, more than a quarter of the world’s population lacks access to straightforward and life-saving surgical procedures.

Operation Health makes a strong and compelling justification for adding surgical care to the global health agenda by providing an overview of dangerous but repairable medical conditions common in developing countries. Every chapter opens with a vignette by Kushner which tells the remarkable story of the patients and situations he encountered in the field. Carefully crafted case studies demonstrate the power of surgery to heal people suffering from potentially debilitating conditions, including clubfoot, obstructed labor, and broken bones.

The chapters—written by world-renowned surgical experts—cover related medical topics such as epidemiology, women’s health, cancer, and trauma in locations from Sierra Leone to Nepal, Ghana, Mongolia, and elsewhere. This detailed and compassionate book will be of great interest to medical professionals, students, public health policy makers, philanthropic donors, and those with a general interest in global health.

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