New Project in Kenya Will Bring Health Care to the Country's Most Vulnerable

Through a new five-year, $37.8 million award from the US Agency for International Development, IntraHealth International and its partners will strengthen health professional training programs and health workforce management systems throughout Kenya to help the country improve the health of its citizens.

One of the greatest challenges Kenya’s health sector faces is ensuring that all its citizens, including the most vulnerable, have access to well-trained, professional health workers. The project will focus on building the health workforce Kenya needs in 27 counties with high HIV disease burdens, in accordance with the country’s Health Sector Human Resources Strategy 2014-2018 and national HIV plans.

“To improve health care for all Kenyans, we need to think about both today and tomorrow,” says Dr. Wasunna Owino, chief of party for the new  Human Resources for Health (HRH) Kenya Program at IntraHealth. “We must maximize the quality of care and use the resources we have now to reach people in need while also investing in Kenya’s future by increasing the number of people entering the health professions.”

The World Health Organization recommended in 2006 a minimum threshold of 22.8 skilled health workers (specifically doctors, nurses, and midwives) per 10,000 people. Since then, other estimates of the number of health workers required to reach acceptable standards of accessibility and care are even higher. To reach even the minimum health workforce threshold, Kenya will have to increase its health workforce by over 300%.

IntraHealth will work with our local partners to increase the number of students graduating from Kenya’s health training institutions and improve the quality and applicability of their training to the country’s disease burden. We will also work with national and county-level leaders to improve health workforce management and leadership and to strengthen the ability of health sector leaders to access and use health workforce and epidemiological data to make informed and effective decisions.

Kenya has greatly improved the health and economic status of its population in recent years. Kenya’s annual economic growth rate has averaged 5.4% over the last decade. Both public and private investments in the health sector are on the rise, as is the use of modern contraceptives. Infant mortality rates have come down, and the under-five mortality rate dropped from 115/10,000 in 2003 to 52/10,000 in 2014. HIV prevalence has fallen from 10% in the late 1990s to just under 6%,  and overall HIV incidence is on the decline

Despite these promising trends, much remains to be done. Maternal mortality remains high, HIV/AIDS still contributes to 29% of deaths, and malaria accounts for about 30% of outpatient consultations and 3-5% of in-patient deaths. Kenya is home to an estimated 1.6 million people living with HIV; 700,000 receive antiretroviral therapy (ART), but this number is well below treatment targets for the government of Kenya and PEPFAR. Alarming disparities in disease burden, epidemiological data, and socio-economic conditions exist among counties. Persistently high rates of maternal mortality are concentrated in just 15 of Kenya’s 47 counties; 20 counties account for more than 80% of new HIV infections, 80% of people living with HIV, and 80% of individuals in need of ART.

IntraHealth has partnered with the government of Kenya for over 30 years to strengthen its health sector. This new project builds on the successes of our HRH Capacity Bridge project and our ongoing FUNZOKenya project.