Aligning emergency care with global health priorities

Thomas Shanahan, Nicholas Risko, Junaid Razzak, Zulfiqar Bhutta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The availability of resources, knowledge, and will to expand access to high-quality emergency care in low- and middle-income countries has made strong progress in recent years. While the possibility for intervention has improved, the need has only grown more pressing. What remains is for us, the people who practice and support emergency care delivery on a regular basis, to pull these elements together and present a cohesive call to action for leaders to prioritize the development of emergency care. This advocacy should coalesce around two high-level commitments: the Sustainable Development Goals and Universal Health Coverage. Emergency care has not been a traditional tool that policy makers rely on to improve health and development; however, we can show that it is actually critical to achieving these goals. Making this case has become possible with the availability of evidence that shows emergency health conditions contribute to a substantial portion of the disease burden, emergency care interventions are high-impact, and the interventions can be implemented without a substantial increase in resources. Main body: There is a growing understanding of the burden of disease in low- and middle-income countries and how 54% or 24.3 million deaths are amenable to emergency care systems. There are a group of diseases that are time sensitive and show improved outcomes with good emergency care systems. Alongside an improving scientific underpinning to emergency care, there is growing policy recognition. While there is no direct mention of emergency care in the Sustainable Development Goals document, many goals, such as reductions in infant and maternal deaths, deaths due to non-communicable diseases, road traffic injuries and violence, improving resilience of climate change, universal coverage, and safe/sustainable urban environments are not achievable without developing, sustaining, and improving the quality of emergency care systems. Conclusion: To take emergency care to the next level, we must capitalize on the growing understanding of the disease burden of emergent conditions, along with the increasing evidence of the high-impact and low-cost of emergency care interventions. Linking these messages to widely accepted policy priorities like the SDGs and UHC will increase attention towards the development of emergency care systems, which potentially could save lives.

Original languageEnglish
Article number52
JournalInternational Journal of Emergency Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 22 Nov 2018


  • Emergency care
  • Emergency care systems
  • Low and middle-income countries
  • Sustainable development goals
  • Universal health coverage
  • World Health Organization
  • World health Assembly


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