The health care industry has traditionally been one of cures and treatments. You seek healthcare when you are sick, when you are in pain, or when you are pregnant. If health care were far from you, if it took hours to get to a clinic, and then hours of waiting to be treated, would you still go? Or would you try home remedies, ask your local ‘witch doctor’, or ask your priest to pray for you instead?
In Kenya, there are many tribes that are used to asking local healers for health advice, using traditional cures or ignoring their ailments as professional health care is too far away, too expensive, or too intimidating. A key example is the use of traditional birth attendants (TBAs). They deliver around 30% of babies in the West of Kenya, as they are highly regarded community members. However they don’t have the medical training to correctly deal with any problems during childbirth. Deliveries by TBA’s are shown to have a far higher mortality rate than those delivered by a skilled attendant (those with medical training). In 2013, the Government began offering free deliveries in public hospitals, but some women still choose to use a TBA instead. One woman has said, “I avoid going to public hospitals because the services are poor and the nurses are very rude.”1
To increase access to health care in rural areas, First Lady Kenyatta launched a new chain of mobile clinics, Beyond Zero. The clinics aim to improve access to health care for mothers and children including immunisations. They are being rolled out to counties based on HIV, maternal and child health indicators, but aim to ultimately support all counties.
Amref Health Africa has piloted a model using discarded shipping containers in Northern Kenya to bring healthcare to nomadic tribes. Research had shown only 7.9% of Turkana mothers had access to a skilled birth attendant, resulting in one in five children dying before their fifth birthday. The mobile clinics have halved the distance from the tribes to healthcare, meaning more mothers can seek professional care instead of relying on local Emuron (traditional diviners who request an animal is slaughtered and brought as a gift in return for healing).
Access Afya’s micro-clinics bring healthcare into informal settlements, in a non-intimidating way. They are staffed with local community health workers who grew up in the community. They offer cures and treatments, but also advice and a friendly chat. Last week KEMRI CDC visited Access Afya’s Kisii Village Clinic (Mukuru), as they kept hearing about Access Afya as the key choice for women in the area to visit for family planning and maternal health.
As more innovative healthcare interventions join the market, we hope to see a healthier Kenya! Healthcare should be about the patients, not about the industry. It is not about one key solution, but rather partners working together, educating the population on the importance of good health and making healthcare accessible.
- Swanson, Will. Hospitals in the Desert. Al Jazeera Magazine. November 2013