PORTLAND, Oregon — Each year, violence and other trauma-related injuries cause more deaths globally than HIV, tuberculosis and malaria combined. Experts from King’s College London say that battlefield medicine advances may be the key to improving the health and well-being of injury victims in developing nations because they are cost-effective, mobile and easy to administer.
Annually across the globe, more than five million people die from trauma. One of the most potent killers is blood loss. However, thanks to advancements in military medical technologies, reducing blood loss-related deaths in developing nations is becoming more accessible, says Richard Sullivan, an epidemiologist at King’s College London.
Fast, affordable and effective hemostatic powders are one such advancement. Designed to stop bleeding, the powders are lightweight, cost-effective and, most importantly, no previous experience or training is necessary to use them. In developing nations, where hospitals are often understaffed and underequipped, these simple interventions can make the difference between life and death.
Another battlefield medicine technique of using modern day tourniquets is an additional way to reduce the likelihood of trauma victims bleeding out. Consisting of a band of thick cloth and plastic, the tourniquets can effectively stop bleeding even after loss of a limb, says Sullivan. Given that 90 percent of road traffic deaths occur in developing nations, with 26 percent of accidents being fatal on the continent of Africa, these modern tourniquets could save thousands of lives each year if used by first-responders. An added benefit is that manufacturing one of these modern tourniquets only costs about 50 cents.
Varun Verma, a global health hospital medicine fellow and blogger, agrees with Sullivan’s assertion that hospitals in developing regions are in dire need of technological upgrades.
“The fact that we are at an unprecedented time in human history cannot be understated,” he writes on KevinMD.com. “We have the knowledge, wealth, and ability to eliminate health disparities. What we need is the consensus that all people deserve the benefits of modern technology, and the will to mobilize.”
Mobilization is the key ingredient to success. According to the World Health Organization, there are only 2.6 physicians per 10,000 people and in South-East Asia there are only 10 hospital beds per 10,000. This creates a need for increased small-scale access to trauma intervention technologies.
Real world applications are already in effect: The Indian city of Bangalore has taken the military-inspired strategy of locating smaller trauma-equipped ambulances strategically near busy roadway intersections, where the majority of trauma injuries occur. The city has also employed 20 motorcycle ambulances equipped with the bare necessities. Although these programs are still in their infancy, results so far have been positive.