While Kenya has made significant reforms in the health sector towards achieving universal health coverage, attaining quality and affordable health care needs aggressive progression of the three strategic pillars of manufacturing, food security and affordable housing under the Big Four Agenda.
The most urgent thing the government must do is to accelerate scale up the manufacturing sector by promoting the development of local industries that manufacture drugs and the provision of an enabling environment to support the growth of existing but small manufacturers to boost their local output. Increasing production of pharmaceuticals, lab reagents as well as other medical supplies in the local market will reduce the overall cost of healthcare and enable the sustainability of UHC as presently most of these items are imported.
What this means is the country will significantly lower importation costs especially on foreign exchange, with the money saved to put into other essential use. Subsequently, this will lead to a drop in the direct cost of importing medical equipment and allowing the Medical Equipment Service to lease to County governments at a lower cost, thereby freeing taxpayers’ money to provide essential drugs to health facilities across Kenya.
With no access to safe and clean water, sanitation, durable housing structures, the spread of infectious diseases are greatly increased contributing to the high prevalence of infectious diseases especially within informal settlements.
Similarly, the lack of standardized housing climate-adapted and ventilated homes lower the chances of achieving 100% health coverage. It should be noted that rapid urbanization has caused lifestyle changes with sedentary lifestyles and pollution resulting in a great rise in infectious diseases.
Achieving the provision of decent homes faster can help the country tame its susceptibility to infectious diseases and make Kenya ready to fight off the prevalence of deadly disease outbreaks like the dreaded Coronavirus that has taken away many lives and thousands infected in China.
We, therefore, need to see increased activities around Private Public Partnership (PPPs) to aggressively drive the affordable housing agenda towards the provision of environmentally friendly houses to thousands of Kenyans.
Aspects like improved ventilation and sanitation must be the first consideration to ensure the wellbeing of dwellers by reducing the possibility and instances of infectious diseases and chronic illnesses.
Achieving the provision of decent homes faster can help the country tame its susceptibility to chronic illnesses and make Kenya ready to fight off the prevalence of deadly disease outbreaks like the dreaded Coronavirus that has taken away many lives and thousands infected in China.
Already, a cloud of fear hangs in the country over the level of the country’s preparedness to deal with such a calamity, despite current efforts to control traffic flow into the country from airports and border entry points. One can only imagine the catastrophic effect that an outbreak of coronavirus would have presently due to our limited capacity to produce essential medical supplies, our unplanned and congested urban settlements.
Finally, the country’s growing population needs to have an adequate food supply that is also nutritious to promote healthy living that can support the development of a healthy economy. Agriculture was once the backbone of the Kenyan economy. While its significance cannot be overemphasized, agriculture accounts for 30% of the GDP and a further 65% of Kenya’s exports, many Kenyans still lack access to healthy foods.
To achieve 100% universal health care, Kenya must not only feed itself but feed itself well to ensure the citizenry do not slide to poor health on the deficiency of essential nutrients.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), ensuring optimum nutrition at each stage of a person’s life is the foundation of attaining universal health coverage. WHO further states that nutrition is the foundation for health and well- being as a key element of primary health care playing an essential role in prevention, which is better than cure.
If advancements can be made in the pillars of manufacturing, food security and affordable housing, all Kenyans will be able to receive affordable health care without the risk of financial catastrophe. In order to ensure that quality healthcare services are being offered to Kenyans, the government must accelerate Kenya’s intentions of being a globally competitive and prosperous nation.
However, attaining UHC will mean advancing all key pillars of the Big Four Agenda owing to the inter-dependency of each.