A critical threshold for global pediatric surgical workforce density

Megan E. Bouchard*, Yao Tian, Jeanine Justiniano, Samuel Linton, Christopher DeBoer, Fizan Abdullah, Monica Langer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Purpose: 1.7 billion children lack access to surgical care, particularly in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC). The pediatric surgical workforce density (PSWD), an indicator of surgical access, correlates with survival of complex pediatric surgical problems. To determine if PSWD also correlates with population-level health outcomes for children, we compared PSWD with pediatric-specific mortality rates and determined the PSWD associated with improved survival. Methods: Using medical licensing registries, pediatric surgeons practicing in 26 countries between 2015 and 2019 were identified. Countries’ PSWD was calculated as the ratio of pediatric surgeons per 100,000 children. The correlation between neonatal, infant and under 5 mortality rates and PSWD was assessed using Spearman’s correlations and piecewise linear regression models. Results: Four LIC, eight L-MIC, ten UMIC and four HIC countries, containing 420 million children, were analyzed. The median PSWD by income group was 0.03 (LIC), 0.12 (L-MIC), 1.34 (UMIC) and 2.13 (HIC). PSWD strongly correlated with neonatal (0.78, p < 0.001), infant (0.82, p < 0.001) and under 5 (0.83, p < 0.001) mortality rates. Survival improved with increasing PSWD to a threshold of 0.37. Conclusion: PSWD correlates with pediatric population mortality rates, with significant improvements in survival with PSWD > 0.37. Currently, PSWD in LMICs is inadequate to meet UN Sustainable Development Goal 3.2 for child mortality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1303-1309
Number of pages7
JournalPediatric Surgery International
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2021


  • Childhood mortality
  • National surgical planning
  • Pediatric surgery
  • Workforce density

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Surgery


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