Tackling inequality in burn injury prevention and treatment

Kamal Phuyal, Programme Manager, giving burn care training in Nepal

Community Health Volunteer Training in Nepal

The Challenge

The cause and severity of burn injuries range hugely, from minor sunburn and scalds through to major burns that penetrate deep into the skin causing major trauma.  In high income societies prevention has significantly reduced the number of burn injuries and major burn injuries are fortunately rare, often as a result of attempted suicide, house fires and alcohol/drug related incidents or in the elderly infirm. 

In poorer societies and emerging economies, burn injuries are much more widespread and tend to arise from cooking incidents (eg low level cooking, unsafe kerosene stoves etc), occupational hazards, conflict injuries and interpersonal violence as well as an emerging problem with high voltage electrical injuries due to poor infrastructure.


Professor Tom Potokar has carried out major surgery in many of the poorest parts of the world, working alongside clinicians, hospitals and governments to provide burn injury training, injury management & policy consultancy. 

Describing burns in poorer countries as ‘A Disease of Poverty’ that wouldn’t be tolerated in higher income areas, he is part of a growing International movement of passionate professionals working together to address what the WHO refer to as a Public Health Crisis.

Young Burn Patient

He has spent many years visiting hospitals and providing training to medical and other health staff to rapidly build capability to deliver basic, essential and advanced burn management.  Working with collaborators across the world, affordable burn facilities, burn units and burn centres have been set up in low resource environments.  

In scaling up the activity across healthcare systems within countries, a training the trainer scheme has been rolled out, with local medical practitioners now exchanging the knowledge and expertise they have gained with peers across medical practices and hospitals. 


The impact of working directly within communities to break down barriers, raise awareness and identify and implement solutions to prevent burns has been huge.

The work carried out by Professor Potokar and the team at the Centre for Global Burn Injury Policy & Researchat Swansea University and colleagues working with Interburns across the globe have led to real impact through service improvement, strengthening of training of staff and community prevention activity.  Over a 3 year period:

Breaking the taboo: Sita Bhandari

Rehabilitating burn injury survivors in Nepal

Rehabilitating burn injury survivors in Nepal
  • 14 burns services were evaluated with the implementation of affordable improvements and the integration of tools via a digital app to provide on-going development and support.
  • 600 staff have been provided with basic burn care training in primary healthcare
  • 462 nurses have been provided with advanced burn care training
  • 35 surgeons have been trained in Nepal and 32 surgeons trained in Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan & Zimbabwe. A further 36 trained in advanced burn care nursing. 
  • 1-year intensive programme has also been developed and delivered to 8 nurses, which has involved implementing quality improvements within hospitals.
  • Training the trainer programme has led to ongoing improvements and a lasting legacy of improved outcomes for patients


United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

Swansea University Research Themes