A panel of private health sector players met to discuss their role in providing universal health coverage (UHC).
The Kenya Healthcare Federation (KHF), which is part of the committee, says the Kenyan government is underfunded for healthcare, allocating only 4 to 6 per cent instead of 12 to 15 per cent of the recommended budget.
“Besides weak accountability systems and inadequate human resources, health care is paralyzed and unable to achieve universal health coverage,” said Dr. Anastasia Nyalita, CEO of the King Hussein Cancer Foundation.
The lack of tailored policy formulation and implementation has also emerged as an obstacle to achieving universal health coverage.
The Partnership for African Social Research and Governance (PASGR), a non-profit organization looking to guide better policy in Africa, has partnered with the King Hussein Cancer Foundation to identify gaps, conduct research and engage stakeholders in achieving universal health coverage.
They hope to collaborate with government stakeholders to ensure that Kenyans reach the vision of universal health coverage.
A UHC pilot program was implemented in 2018 in Nyeri, Machakos, Kisumu and Isiolo. The counties were chosen due to the unique health needs of their residents.
Nyeri, due to high burden of non-communicable diseases, Machakos due to traffic accidents, Kisumu due to malaria and infectious diseases, Isiolo to maternal mortality.
Nyeri was soon terminated, citing financial constraints, and Kisumu was uninitiated. Machakos and Isiolo come to a calm conclusion, but lessons have been learned.
Dr. Samuel Otti, MD, a global health specialist, says “catastrophic” health expenditures are pushing families into poverty.
“We are all one step closer to poverty from one disease,” he said.
Dr. Otti called for the urgent implementation of universal health coverage in Kenya and the rest of Africa.
“Universal health coverage is about ensuring that all individuals and communities get the health care they need,” he said.
“Universal health coverage does not mean that health care is free, but out-of-pocket payments do not prevent people from accessing health services, and they are protected from catastrophic health spending, which spends more than 30 percent of household income on health.”
According to Anoni Mviang, Executive Director at PASGR, some of the solutions to fill the gaps include collecting data to identify and curb emerging health threats and implementing local interventions such as community surveillance, diagnostic networks and vaccine management.
“Developing a national health data system will enable policy makers and service providers to provide targeted healthcare budgeting and services for maximum impact and easy remediation of any emerging barriers to health equity,” said Mveyange.
Investing in research and adoption of national policies and guidelines that facilitate the delivery of health services that reflect local needs.
Nyalita called on the private sector to collaborate with the Ministry of Health to help identify and address gaps in access to medical services.
Stakeholders called on the government to invest the recommended proportion of health care funds.
They also called for investment and adoption of diagnostic technology. This equipment allows health care workers to better detect disease through digital technologies and allows local health care workers to handle essential cases and refer only severe cases.
Speakers said citizens can also play a role by prioritizing self-care.
This includes self-preventive practices such as exercise, proper diet, and access to innovative self-care products, such as self-testing options for HIV, tuberculosis, diabetes, and high blood pressure.