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What is Universal Health Care?

By Fredrick Obura | December 14th 2018
President Uhuru Kenyatta at Tenwek Hospital, Bomet County

NAIROBI, KENYA: President Uhuru Kenyatta is in Kisumu County for a number of activities but key in his programme was the launch of Universal Health Care, a pilot project also replicated in Isiolo, Nyeri and Machakos.

The pilot service targets 3.2 million beneficiaries.

Health Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki said the decision to pilot the programme in these counties was evidence-based on disease burden in the areas.

 Kisumu County leads in the high number of infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, while Machakos hospital visits are mostly because of accidents and injuries.

 Nyeri is leading in cases of non-communicable diseases, especially diabetes, and Isiolo is meant to demonstrate how the package will work among the nomadic population, said the CS.

"Piloting the package in a controlled population ensures less chances of failure and we can minimise the risks when the programme will later be scaled up to the whole population," she said.

What is Universal Health Care?

According to World Health Organisation, the Universal Health Care (UHC) means that all individuals and communities receive the health services they need without suffering financial hardship. It:

·         Includes the full spectrum of essential, quality health services, from health promotion to prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, and palliative care.

·         Enables everyone to access the services that address the most significant causes of disease and death, and ensures that the quality of those services is good enough to improve the health of the people who receive them.

·         Protects people from the financial consequences of paying for health services out of their own pockets reduces the risk that people will be pushed into poverty because unexpected illness requires them to use up their life savings, sell assets, or borrow – destroying their futures and often those of their children.

Achieving UHC is one of the targets the nations of the world set when adopting the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015.

Countries that progress towards UHC will make progress towards the other health-related targets, and towards the other goals. Good health allows children to learn and adults to earn, helps people escape from poverty, and provides the basis for long-term economic development.

The World Health Organization says Universal Health Care is not:

  • Free coverage for all possible health interventions, regardless of the cost, as no country can provide all services free of charge on a sustainable basis.
  • UHC is not just about health financing. It encompasses all components of the health system: health service delivery systems, the health workforce, health facilities and communications networks, health technologies, information systems, quality assurance mechanisms, and governance and legislation.
  • It is not only about ensuring a minimum package of health services, but also about ensuring a progressive expansion of coverage of health services and financial protection as more resources become available.
  • Not only about individual treatment services, but also includes population-based services such as public health campaigns, adding fluoride to water, controlling mosquito breeding grounds, and so on.

UHC is comprised of much more than just health; taking steps towards UHC means steps towards equity, development priorities, and social inclusion and cohesion.

In Kisumu for instance, the County will receive Sh800 million from the national government to finance a pilot project on universal health coverage.

These funds will be channeled to local health facilities, the Kenya Medical Supply Agency and the county government.

Kisumu County chief Officer of Health Dr Dickens Onyango says Sh460 million will be used to purchase pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical items to be supplied through Kemsa.

The health facilities, he adds, will get money directly from the team managing the project at the national government to finance operations and pay workers.

The last tranche will come to county government for the hiring of additional staff, training of primary healthcare workers and upgrading of facilities.

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