Surgical Equity Prize

The Challenge Prize Centre is in the process of researching and designing a surgical equity prize.

challenge prizes centre graphic

Check out the new
 Surgical Equity Prize website!


One third of human disease requires surgery. And yet surgical inequity is not yet high on the agenda of international institutions, ministries of health and finance, development agencies and bilateral, multilateral and private funders.

Until ​recently, ​surgery ​was ​not ​recognised as ​a ​significant ​contributor ​to ​the ​global disease ​burden ​and ​was ​not ​a ​top ​priority in ​the ​eyes ​of ​global ​public ​health agencies.

But ​recent ​estimates ​from The ​Lancet claim ​that ​five ​billion ​people ​lack ​access ​to safe ​and ​affordable ​surgical ​services.

We need to change this. We believe there is an urgent need to develop more adaptable low-cost surgical tools and better system design, support and services that fit into different environments. We also need to upskill personnel, improve hospital infrastructure and build more reliable distribution and supply systems for operating theatre provision.

For this reason, we are designing a Challenge Prize as part of a broader campaign to raise awareness, leverage knowledge and expertise, and harness the requisite technical and financial resources.

5 ​billion ​people ​cannot ​get safe ​and ​affordable ​surgical and ​anaesthesia ​care, ​90% of ​people ​in ​LMICs ​can’t even ​get ​basic ​surgical ​care – Jim ​Yong ​Kim ​MD, ​PhD 12th President ​of ​the ​The ​World ​Bank

Lack of action in improving surgery and anaesthesia could imperil our collective effort to realise several SDGs. For example, if access to caesarean section is not dramatically improved, it is doubtful that SDG 3.1, which calls for a reduction in the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births, can be realised.

Redesigning surgery around local resources

Local ​adaptations

Rural ​hospitals ​often ​do ​not ​have ​running water, ​stable ​electricity ​sources ​or ​access to ​roads. ​Resource ​shortages ​mean ​that crucial ​equipment ​and ​supplies ​(such ​as medical ​oxygen) ​are ​either ​reused ​or unavailable, ​anaesthesia ​cannot ​be provided ​and ​hospitals ​depend ​on ​the ​help of ​non-specialists.

Let’s ​redesign ​surgical ​care ​in ​poorer countries ​from ​the ​ground ​up ​instead ​of trying ​to ​adapt ​the ​solutions ​found elsewhere. ​We ​should ​use ​local ​talent, transport ​links ​and ​build ​upon ​existing resources ​to ​create  materials, ​tools ​and approaches ​to ​surgery ​that ​are ​innovative and ​suitable ​for ​local ​communities.

Financial ​barriers

Seeking ​surgical ​care ​has ​disastrous financial ​consequences ​for ​over ​80 ​million people ​and ​their ​families  every ​year, nearly ​60 ​per ​cent ​of ​who ​face ​a ‘catastrophic ​health ​expenditure’ ​due ​to non-medical ​costs, ​such ​as ​reaching ​the surgery ​in ​the ​first ​place.

Challenge Prizes

The ​Challenge ​Prize ​Centre ​at ​Nesta wants ​to ​steer ​the ​discussion ​towards improving ​the ​access ​to ​and ​capacity ​of surgery ​in ​developing ​countries. ​Prizes ​are powerful ​tools ​for ​incentivising ​the creation ​of ​long-term ​solutions ​to ​social challenges ​by ​stimulating ​new ​enterprise and ​endeavour.

In this regard, we are looking to collaborate with organisations to deploy challenge prizes as a tool to foster and generate innovation to widen access to surgery and improve it’s quality in LMICs.

Potential Key Challenges:

  1. Post-operative infections
  2. Safe anaesthetic monitoring and administration
  3. Blood banking and transfusions
  4. Procurement, integration and intelligent theatre technology

For more information, please contact Daniel Berman.