World Journal of Surgery

, Volume 37, Issue 11, pp 2507–2511 | Cite as

A Square Peg in a Round Hole? Challenges with DALY-based “Burden of Disease” Calculations in Surgery and a Call for Alternative Metrics

Article

Abstract

Introduction

In recent years, surgical providers and advocates have engaged in a growing effort to establish metrics to estimate capacity for surgical services as well the burden of surgical diseases in resource-limited settings. The burden of disease (BoD) studies have established the disability-adjusted life year (DALY) as the primary metric to measure both disability and premature mortality. Nonetheless, DALY-based approaches present methodological challenges, some of which are unique to surgical conditions, not fully addressed through the multiple iterations of the BoD studies, including the most recent study.

Methods and Results

This paper examines these challenges in detail, including issues around age-weighting and discounting, and estimates of disability-weights for specific conditions. Surgical burden measurements of specific conditions, or through the assessment of hospital wards as platforms for service delivery, still have unresolved methodological hurdles. The 2010 BoD study addresses some of these issues, but many questions still remain. Other methods estimating surgical prevalence, backlogs in treatment, and disability incurred by delays in care may provide more practical approaches to disease burden that can be useful tools for clinicians and health advocates.

Conclusions

These approaches warrant further exploration in LMICs and these debates require active engagement by surgical providers and advocates globally.

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Copyright information

© Société Internationale de Chirurgie 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Public HealthUniversity of CaliforniaSan DiegoUSA
  2. 2.Department of Pediatric SurgeryYale University HospitalNew HavenUSA
  3. 3.Department of Pediatric SurgeryMcMaster UniversityHamiltonCanada

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