Leaders push for reforms in health sector to achieve Universal Health Coverage
Leaders from private sector, non-governmental organizations and the government have pushed for radical changes in health sector for Kenya to achieve Universal Health Coverage (UHC) goals at the Africa Social and Behaviour Change Conference. The push comes at a time when the government recently launched Universal Health Coverage pilot projects in Kisumu, Isiolo, Nyeri and Machakos counties.
While Universal Health Coverage means affordable access to healthcare services, there has been misconception and misrepresentations on its purpose. In addition, sector players need to invest adequate resources to achieve a sustainable Universal Health Coverage agenda. Among the key challenges identified in achieving UHC are: Lack of policy around data collection in disease preference at County level, lack of Universal Health Coverage policy, dishonesty among healthcare stakeholders, inadequate investment in healthcare workers and infrastructure, minimal social inclusion and public participation in decision making
Chairperson of Parliamentary Health Committee, Hon. Sabina Chege, noted: “The main challenge is Kenya is the issue of data collection which is not up to date. On the legislative end, we are working with the Ministry of Health to ensure that we have a UHC policy in place. As we start the current budget making process, we want it to user driven. We want have a dialogue with health facilities, especially the national ones to able to determine what common mwananchi needs in terms of health services”.
During the conference, there was a call for need to re-look and re-think issue of health financing; “it’s not merely about money, people need to take ownership and take charge of their health responsibilities; how can we finance our health with the resources available to us” Sabina Chege, Chair of the Health Committee said during a panel discussion on the status of the health sector in Kenya.
Kenya needs to draw its attention to critical changes in healthcare reforms to meet the growing health needs of the growing population. Despite increasing investments in the sector, there is insignificant provision of “people-centered”high-quality healthcare services that will lead to realization of Universal Health Coverage.
“We need to put issues that affect health sector into perspective. For example, when you go modern African governments, you will find Ministries of Planning or Industry or Investment Advisory however you will never find a representation from the health departments. Further, good health does not put money into peoples’ pockets, however, it can prevent a family from going into poverty. What good health does, is that, it enables you to earn money”. said Prof. Khama Rogo, Lead Health Sector Specialist with the World Bank and Head of the World Bank Group’s Health in Africa Initiative.
“If health business is going to be realised, the only thing we have to do is achieve UHC. Without social and financial protection of the people we cannot be able have an efficient the healthcare supply chain” said Dr. Githinji Gitahi, Group Executive Officer, AMREF Health Africa and Co-Chair UHC 2030 . On the issue of public participation on healthcare decision making process, the constitution provides that citizens have a right to be heard on issues that affect them. This shows we have mechanisms and platforms for public participation however we don’t have an accountability framework”. added Dr. Githinji Gitahi.
Hon. Sabina Chege said that she will use her position as the chair of Parliamentary health committee to call for a national Health Summit that will bring private and public sector together to deliberate on the status of health in Kenya and seek ways to improve health services to Kenyans. During the Summit, key among the issues to be deliberated upon is the establishment of a Health Service Commission that would operate like the established Land Commission and work in tandem with the Ministry of Health to streamline services and resources across the country.
PS Kenya is working closely with the organizers of the International Social Behaviour Change Communication (SBBC) Summit, to ensure that the home-grown conference complements the international one by addressing gaps that are relevant to the African context and insights gathered through the ASBC conference feed into the next international SBCC conference. The ASBC Conference hopes to further entrench Social Behaviour Change practices by taking a multi-sectoral approach and broadening the discussion beyond use of communication to influence change in the society.