Kenya Creates First National Standards for Training Doctors and Dentists

Kenya’s Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board has created the country’s first ever National Inspection and Accreditation Standards for institutions that train doctors and dentists. IntraHealth International’s FUNZOKenya project worked with board members to develop the standards along with the core curricula all medical and dental schools and teaching hospitals across the country must now follow to receive accreditation.

The board regulates the practice of medicine and dentistry throughout Kenya. The new standards outline a minimum set of requirements training institutions must meet with the goal of better preparing new doctors and dentists to provide high-quality care. The standards cover requirements for both students—such as clinical training requirements—and faculty—such as research.  

Kenya has a shortage of health workers, limiting access to skilled health care. Kenya has fewer than 2 doctors and 1 dentist (1.98 doctors and .24 dentists) for every 10,000 people.

In order to address current staffing shortages and plan for the future, the country must significantly increase the number of graduates from its medical schools. As Kenya tries to increase its production of health workers, it is also focusing on the quality of that training. Unless there is a sufficient pool of qualified, well-trained health professionals, universal access to health care will not be realized as envisioned in the Kenyan constitution.

Previously the board lacked clear policies and objective criteria for evaluating and accrediting schools and teaching hospitals, including a consistent scoring system that would clearly point out training gaps and areas for improvement.

“A college would develop a curriculum on its own and bring it to the board for review and approval. It was very hard to ensure standards,” says Daniel Yumbya, chief executive officer for the Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board.

“The development of the core curricula is a big leap from the bush to the highway,” Yumba says. He hopes the new standards will also spur investment for additional training institutions. “The population of Kenya continues to grow,” he said. “We need to train more doctors and dentists to offset the shortage currently being witnessed. To achieve this we need more medical and dental schools.”

As a first step, the board required Kenya’s nine medical schools and two dental schools to align their curricula with the core curricula by the end of June. The board will launch the full inspection and accreditation standards in September.

Schools and teaching hospitals must meet all requirements to receive accreditation and will need to reapply for accreditation every six years. The institutions will have access to tools for self-assessment to ensure they are on track for meeting the standards.

IntraHealth has also helped other regulatory bodies in Kenya—including the Clinical Officers Council, the Nursing Council of Kenya, Kenya Nutrition, and Dietetics Institute and the Pharmacy and Poisons Board—to develop their core curricula and accreditation standards. IntraHealth’s Irene Natalie Chami and David Maingi lead this work for the FUNZOKenya. 

IntraHealth's FUNZOKenya project is funded by the US Agency for International Development. “Funzo” means training in Kiswahili, and the project works with the seven regulatory boards to strengthen preservice education of health workers, improve access to training for existing health workers, and link professional licensure to ongoing professional development. These linkages are critical to ensuring high-quality health care.