The GOAL-Trauma Study Blog

Frugal Innovation in Global Surgery

The Global Surgery movement aims to improve both health and health equity for all those in need of surgical care, regardless of geographical or financial backgrounds. Particular focus is given to patients and communities that are underserved or those who are experiencing conflict

A key part of Global Surgery lies in supporting such communities by establishing equity of care for all in a “horizontal fashion”, however this does not come without its own challenges. High-income countries (HICs) are often at the forefront of development and improvement initiatives, many of which should be supporting low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) but often provide only a “one way” collaboration where the Global South is not always involved enough in the conversation.

Surgical innovations are at the forefront of surgical development, yet have steep price tags that often make them inaccessible for many globally

The concept of frugal innovation aims to overcome such limitations. By implementing new ways of approaching clinical issues through experience, evidence-base, and novelty, many new interventions and innovations have been designed in the Global South, and also offer a new perspective to problem solving to the Global North. This concept creates a true and prolific exchange between region, which can lead to mutual growth.

The Aravind Eye Care System is a good example of frugal innovations in global surgical care ( This is a network of 11 regional eye hospitals in southern India, which annually performs more than 260,000 cataract operations by using a dual bed system. The team has also implemented a way to sterilise and reuse surgical instruments, where possible. Reuse of surgical instruments has led to a substantial decrease in carbon footprint emissions and highlighted how other specialities may also introduce something similar. The rates of postoperative infections after cataract surgeries in their hospitals has been shown to be minimal, despite lacking many anti-microbial treatment options seen as standard in HICs

This is just an example of frugal innovation that could lead to global improvements in patient care. Many other such examples exist, from mosquito net mesh for hernia repair to use of point-of-care ultrasound. Frugal innovation must be encouraged wherever possible!

International Health Systems group
Department of Engineering
University of Cambridge
Trumpington Street
Cambridge, CB2 1PZ
United Kingdom

Tel: +44-1223-748245