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Making access to surgeries equal and affordable: a study on the Philippines

Surgery – a privilege only for a few?

Each year, 143 million surgeries around the globe are unable to take place due to economic, logistic or workforce reasons. This has an extensive impact on individual quality of life and places a large burden on countries’ economies. The Lancet Commission on Global Surgery established six indicators to gauge access to safe surgery and facilitate future change. These indicators take many variables into account, such as access to timely essential surgery, density distribution of the surgical workforce, perioperative mortality rate and financial risk of patients.

Our Polygeia team is using the Filipino healthcare system as a model. We will characterise its difficulties using the six suggested surgical indicators. In our analysis, we will include data from the Filipino Department of Health together with numerous region-specific parameters like population density, transportation, average household income etc., to eventually give directions on how to improve the service and counteract any regional or socioeconomic disparities.

A similar study on the Brazilian system proved the strategy to be a useful source of knowledge, and helped formulate several recommendations how to tackle the geographic disparities and expand financial risk protection for the patients.

Access to appropriate healthcare is polarised (Left: Makati Central Business district; Right: slums in Manila). Image credits:;

Philippines – country of 7,500 islands

The Philippines is the 9th most populated country in Asia, with its capital region being one of the most populous urban areas in the world. Its peculiar landform – an archipelago – makes the transport system very inefficient and challenging, and results in pronounced inequality between the islands.

The national healthcare system has significantly improved in recent years; the universal health coverage plan PhilHelath benefits over 80% of the Filipinos. However, the system still faces many problems, especially in provincial areas. There is also a complicated hospital system, with a large private sector.

By delivering a valid and comprehensive report on the Filipino situation, we hope we will contribute to much-needed change in the Philippines, other Southeast Asia countries and beyond.

Our project in a nutshell

  • Phase 1: Thorough data collection to estimate the six surgical indicators for the Philippines

  • Phase 2: Comprehensive analysis through expert consultations and detailed case studies on the countries that have overcome similar problems

  • Phase 3: Realistic and achievable directions for the Filipino healthcare authorities

Further reading

About me

First year PhD student at Cambridge, working with viruses and structures of their proteins. Likes morning coffee and still doesn’t know how to use Twitter.


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