Measuring the Full Impact of Fistula

Untreated fistula costs nearly $700 million annually in lost economic productivity.

Typically, and appropriately, we measure the impact of untreated obstetric fistula in terms of women’s suffering: Each day that a fistula patient goes without repair surgery is a day when she needlessly endures the misery of incontinence and the shame of social isolation.

Yet failing to treat fistula has serious effects that ripple out from the women who tragically suffer from it. In most cases, fistula dramatically limits a woman’s ability to earn a living or provide for her family. Viewed in the aggregate, the lost productivity that results from untreated fistula takes a toll that we can measure not just in medical or emotional terms, but also in economic terms. Just how big is that toll?

The Fistula Foundation team recently completed an analysis of this topic, and we shared our findings in a white paper, “The Economic Impact of Untreated Obstetric Fistula.” Our core finding: Across Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, the loss of economic productivity caused by untreated obstetric fistula comes to $691 million per year.

The white paper draws inspiration from a groundbreaking report issued in January by the McKinsey Health Institute and the World Economic Forum (WEF). That report, titled “Closing the Women’s Health Gap,” shows that addressing gender-based disparities in access to healthcare could translate into a $1 trillion increase in global GDP by 2040. Our analysis uses a methodology similar to the one employed by the McKinsey and WEF teams.

“Every case of fistula is a heart-breaking story of lost opportunity,” said CEO Kate Grant. “Our work focuses on enabling women—patient by patient, surgery by surgery—to reclaim their lives and to regain their potential to contribute to their communities. This new analysis provides a compelling look at the full, global impact of neglecting to treat this highly curable condition.”

To access the white paper, click here.

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