Kenya has been ranked 142 out of 189 countries in the recent UN’s World Health Organization report, Human Development Index (HDI), increasing the country’s life expectancy to an average of 67.3 years.
This is a slight improvement from 2017 where Kenya ranked 143.
Universal Health Coverage (UHC)
Kenyans can expect life expectancy rank to skyrocket if the current government manages to implement and execute the Universal Health Coverage plan under President Uhuru Kenyatta’s big 4 agenda.
A close look at the mortality rate since the government introduced the free delivery policy in government facilities since 2013 indicates improvement in maternal mortality rate.
Research by BMC Health Services Research- open access, peer-reviewed journal, is an example of the possibilities of Universal Health Coverage accessibility by a majority of Kenyan citizens.
The research shows an increase of facility-based deliveries and antenatal attendance by 26.8%. Antenatal care attendance increased by 16.2% in 2014 in the county referral from 247,251 in 2013 to 287,312 in 2014. The number of deliveries increased from 147,262 in 2013 to 186,688 in 2014.
Universal Health care is essential to ensure Kenyan citizens access quality healthcare without suffering financial hardships irrespective of if they can afford it or not. It will also increase the country’s economic productivity as it has a direct impact on a population’s health – when citizens have access to health care it ensures they live healthier lives and miss work less, permitting them to contribute more where they work and by extension the economy.
For UHC to succeed, the government needs to ensure that every county has enough hospitals that are easily accessible, well equipped- both in personnel and facilities, the staff is paid and have benefits to derail strikes that threaten the fabric of the program’s implementation.
On this accord, Kenya can borrow a leaf from Japan’s healthcare system which its main focus is on the well-being of its citizens, attested by the country’s high life expectancy of 83.98 years as of 2016.
The government of Japan has ensured protocols are put in place to ensure that citizens get the cheapest, swiftest, and the most effective medical care.
Japan’s healthcare cost per capita according to a Bloomberg study, was calculated at just US$4,752 per person compared the United States’ figure of US$8,895 per person.
What of Anticipated Challenges?
If the government of Kenya succeeds to implement Universal Health Coverage they need to be prepared to deal with demographic challenges that may arise.
Currently, over 28 % of Japan’s population is older than 65 compared with 21% in Germany, 15% in America and 6% in India causing severe labor shortage as the ratio of retirees to young people is rapidly increasing.
The country’s social security fund is unsustainable as the citizens draw on public funds, i.e. pensions and medical care rather than paying into them. Japan’s public debt stands at 250% of GDP and the government projects by 2040 social-welfare costs will have risen from their current ¥121trn ($1.06trn) to ¥190trn a year.
To counter problems experienced by the government of Japan, the government of Kenya can conduct a feasibility study to establish a sustainable plan to deal with problems that may arise with the success of Universal Health Coverage.