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Kenya Health Forum 2019: Partnering for Universal Health Coverage

Amref Health Africa in Kenya and other health stakeholders were ably represented at the 2019 Kenya Health Forum convened by the Ministry of Health on 14 and 15 August.

Held against the backdrop of a series of conversations and processes of national dialogue on Universal Health Coverage and under the themePartnering for UHC: Delivering affordable quality healthcare for all,’ the two-day forum brought together stakeholders who included national and county governments, development partners, private sector and other non-state actors to discuss how Kenya can deliver affordable quality health care and achieve UHC.

One of four goals outlined in President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Big 4 Agenda, the universal health coverage goal seeks to provide affordable health care for all. For UHC to be achieved there is need for equitable health access and improved quality of health services.

“Universal Health Coverage means much more than health care. It means ensuring that all Kenyans can get quality health services, where and when they need them, without suffering financial hardship,” said Health Cabinet Secretary Mrs Sicily Kariuki.

Setting the tone for the 2019 forum, Chairperson of the Development Partners in Health Kenya (DPHK) Ms Tessa Matholie said, “Universal Health Coverage is a once in a lifetime opportunity thanks to the big four agenda. Therefore Kenya needs to transform the way things are done in order to achieve UHC.”

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Under the Bill of Rights in Kenya’s Constitution, citizens are entitled to the fundamental right to the highest attainable standards of health and the UHC agenda seeks to deliver on this right. It is also in line with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3.8 “achieve universal health coverage, the Astana Declaration on Primary Health Care (PHC) 2018 that aims at ensuring a people- centred care that offers universal access, social equity and financial protection with a PHC-led approach among other global commitments on health.

“The constitutional architecture of our country demands of us to cultivate and nurture formidable cooperation and partnership between two levels of Government. Both national and county governments have defined roles that are critical and symbiotic in the delivery of health services. For Universal Health Coverage to succeed in Kenya, we must make investments in all health building blocks. Key amongst them Human Resources and Health products and technologies,” added the CS.

Globally, given the diverse socio-political and cultural contexts and capacities, there is no standard formula for UHC. However, many countries are taking actions to accelerate progress towards UHC, or to maintain their gains. Even in countries where health services have traditionally been accessible and affordable, governments need to constantly strive to respond to the ever-growing health needs of their populations and other threats, including developing financial sustainability to endure economic shocks.

Speaking during the opening of the forum held at the Safari Park Hotel, keynote speaker Mr Jong-su Ryu, Commissioner of HIRA International Group at Korea Health Insurance Review and Assessment Service shared recommendations for Kenya from the Korean experience. These are: cross-sector collaboration for one country-driven platform, evidence-based measurable data collection and expanding areas of results application. Korea is implementing the concept of ‘Effective Coverage’ that aims to close the gap in health especially for people who need the services.

Over the two days, discussions and feedback among the health stakeholders resulted into a number of key resolutions on issues in health service delivery. These included: increasing health worker availability and accessibility from and in underserved populations; implementation of the existing ‘Guideline on Cross sharing of Specialists in the Health Sector’ across the 47 counties; accelerating dialogue on the need to establish a Health Services Commission, providing incentives for retention and equitable deployment, increase county funding to PHC including Community Health Services, among other key recommendations.

Amref Health Africa was represented at the Health Forum by Group Chief Executive Officer Dr Githinji Gitahi, Amref Health Africa in Kenya Country Director Dr Meshack Ndirangu, Health Systems Strengthening Programme Director Dr Elizabeth Wala and Afya Timiza Chief of Party Gilbert Wangalwa.