Most patients with various forms of Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs) in Kenya are diagnosed through complications and cannot afford the
high cost of treatment. Studies done in Nairobi have shown that 53% of all hospital admissions were due to Non Communicable Diseases. Current projections show that by 2030, NCDs will overtake communicable diseases as the leading cause of death in the low and middle income countries alike. This is because an aging population and lifestyle changes linked with economic development increase the risk factors for NCDs such as heart disease, cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and diabetes.
These came up during the Center for Health Market Innovations’ healthcare forum, convened by the Institute of Health Policy Management and Research (IHPMR) in collaboration with the Kenya Health Care Federation (KHF). The forum, held on September 21st 2012 at the Sarova Panafric Hotel in Nairobi, aimed at identifying health market innovations to combat the rising cases of NCDs in Kenya, through engaging with stakeholders on pertinent issues. Sixty five participants attended the session that included speaker presentations and a panel that engaged with the audience during a question and answer session. Panelists at the forum included Dr. Waihenya Mwangi, the Head of Non Communicable Diseases Division at the Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation (MOPHS), Mrs Eva Muchemi, the Executive Director of the Kenya Diabetes Management and Information Centre (DMI), and Dr. Ruchika Kohli, a clinical pathologist from Lancet Kenya. Dr. Amit Thakker, Chief Executive Officer of the Kenya Healthcare Federation moderated the panel.
The Executive Director of IHPMR, Dr. Maureen Nafula kicked off the forum by outlining the role of the Center for Health Market Innovations (CHMI) and its innovative initiatives that have been designed to address one or more segments of the NCD continuum of care. She highlighted CHMI’s operation in the East Africa region covering Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania and emphasized on the need to focus on health market innovations that are NCDs oriented at this point in time.
Mrs. Eva Muchemi noted that prevention is the best option for the high cost of NCDs in Kenya. She pointed out behavioral change mechanisms like creating NCDs awareness through community participatory approaches like empowering health workers through training, community screening to allow early detection of NCDs, creating linkages with corporate organizations and the promotion of healthy nutritional lifestyle. Dr. Ruchika informed the participants on the laboratory’s role in combating NCDs through research on prevention implementations. She pointed out the labs role of screening, diagnosis and measuring treatment response of Non Communicable diseases.
Dr. Waihenya highlighted the cost effective measures implemented by the government to combat NCDs in Kenya. He noted the government’s efforts to encourage research on NCDs that will provide data to support evidence based policy making process and prioritization of NCDs pertinent issues. Other measures by the government include: the development of NCD indicators to help in disease surveillance systems, improvement of diagnostic and screening services, and the identification of prevalence of risk factors.
It was evident that a number of pro-poor health market innovations are indeed tackling NCDs care in Kenya, for instance through provision of cheap insulin at public health facilities. However the major concern is on how the communities can ensure that these efforts are plugged into a wider support system, that aids the acquisition of low-cost quality drugs, encourages compliance with established operational and quality standards. Participants at the forum were in agreement that embracing public private partnerships (PPPs) among healthcare stakeholders, sharing available research findings on NCDs, continued advocacy, forming communities of practice for NCDs that focus on measuring risk factors, morbidity and mortality rates, as well as a multi-sectoral support and assistance from the international community, increased internal capacity and prioritization of NCDs issues were critical for Kenya to meet the increasing burden of NCDs among its citizens.