I DREAM FOR KENYA’S HEALTHCARE; I Dream of Healthcare Policy in Kenya
Kenya is a blessed country. She has a wealth of natural resources, skills, gifted and talented individuals; hardworking men and women filled with ideas and dreams of an even more beautiful Kenya for their offspring. Great strides have been made toward the healthcare, medical, bio-medical, and public health infrastructure in Kenya. Much appreciation is raised to, and for all the new private practices, hospitals, research and healthcare facilities that have facilitated better quality healthcare. Kudos is given to the increasing use of mobile phone technology for healthcare access in several pockets of the country. Much gratitude is also raised to leaders who have enabled local and international affiliations in various healthcare settings. See, these are the stories we hear, and those that we take pride in. We, as Kenyan citizens, or those who hold dual citizenship, or the wealthy that live in the Kenyan suburbs, or the employed, whose organizations afford us health insurance, or the relatives of those who work in the healthcare industry. After all, (we) are the people who matter…Right? But, what about those Kenyans resident in rural areas? Those who are unemployed? Or the small business owner working hard to support his family and cannot afford healthcare insurance in Kenya? What about the aging population? What about the uninsured? What about the girls and women who cannot afford annual obstetric and gynecologic examinations? What about those to whom basic sanitation, immunization, vaccination, diet, health & education are not available? Who speaks for /on behalf of these people? Who are they anyway? Do they even matter? So, some random thoughts… Why do patients in Kenyan Hospitals have to share beds; scenario as these lead to increased hospital acquired infections. Why do patients have to be detained in hospitals for lack of payments of hospital bills; is this the best way to collect medical bills? Why is it that counterfeit drugs are sold to unsuspecting patients, when they hand over a medical prescription? Why is it that till today, harmful traditional practices such as Female Genital Mutilation are still ongoing in rural villages in Kenya? Why is it that the public hospitals are understaffed? And if so, how can it be that they are understaffed, yet there are thousands of unemployed graduates in healthcare looking for jobs? Or could it be possible the jobs they are presented do not offer them basic compensation? Why is it that only the wealthy can afford treatment in private hospitals, or in the private wings of public hospitals? Why are our Kenyan doctors motivated to spend more time in the private hospitals and private wings in public hospitals? What of our public health infrastructure? Today, pockets of un-represented and underrepresented population data, and statistics on the same still exist. What are we doing about the alarming trends in the increase in rates of cancers, chronic conditions? Talk about a heavy paragraph… I don’t know, maybe it’s the hidden stories, that I read; you know the ones that no-one really wants to talk about, which depict reality. Maybe it’s the tug at my heart to allay disparities in healthcare faced by women and children, having seen its devastating effects, and yet learned about its great promise, when allayed. …but then again, maybe it’s that dream that pushes me to believe that we, as a country can be better. A public health practitioner in health policy, I do hope and dream for Kenya’s Healthcare.I dream of a Kenya where Public Health will be addressed in every budget as a key component of population infrastructure. Where hospitals, clinics, healthcare facilities, and dispensaries will be organized to serve the growing population of the newly born and the current aging. Where medical doctors trained in Kenya will take pride in their medical degrees, and be motivated to stay and serve in the country that trained them. Where nurses, will not be overworked, but be appreciated for the heart, skill and empathy they pour into the profession. Where medical officers will be valued for supporting the doctors, nurses and public health practitioners. Where pharmacists will be treasured for their intricate contribution towards healthcare. I dream of a Kenya, where research in public health, medicine, chemistry, pharmacy and biochemistry will be avidly conducted and applied; where results will be published and used toward developing greater quality of care and equity in healthcare provision. A Kenya where architects, engineers and teachers will work with medical doctors and public health practitioners to build institutions that support health, healing and wellness of the whole person. I dream of a Health care system in Kenya Where the Healthcare Insurance will serve all cadres of the population from the aging to the new born, females and males, employed and unemployed. See, the escalating death rates in Nyanza province due to new HIV infections, the gun violence in the urban streets of Nairobi province, the female genital mutilation in Pokot,, the increasing malaria in Coast province, the preventable deaths during labor in rural Kenya, the lack of immunization, vaccination, prenatal care, the unavailability of basic public health education...should not be, and should not be acceptable. Not in a country which continues to be blessed with natural resources, skill, talent, education, wealth, architects, professors, engineers, nurses, doctors, lawyers, and a government. I have learned that, honestly, the true wealth of a country lies not in its monetary assets, but in the health of its individuals. Therefore to judge the wealth of a country, look at the health of its population. Let’s all be cognizant that health forms a focal point in any community. We all have a skill to contribute towards a better Health care in Kenya. I cannot do this alone. Imbako Public Health cannot do this alone. But, together, we can make a difference. The change will not be overnight, but at least, it can start with sharing a dream. I dream for Kenya’s Healthcare. I dream of Healthcare Policy in Kenya. At the time of this article, Dr. Irene N. Okech was based at Harvard University.