New era for Kenyan healthcare begins

Groundbreaking initiatives promoting excellence in Healthcare Education and Training as well as developing a Comprehensive Cancer Care Services network are to be launched by the Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta this week (14 March).

Representatives of the founding partners of the Kenya UK Healthcare Alliance, including The University of Manchester, The Christie Hospital, Kisii University and Kenyatta University Teaching, Referral and Research Hospital (KUTRRH) will attend the launch

The scheme ultimately aims to uplift the standard of healthcare in Kenya, through research, workforce training and education of healthcare professionals, initially focusing on improving cancer outcomes through early detection, rapid diagnosis and the delivery of high-quality care.

They will be joined by representatives of: Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust; the UK Government; the Ministry of Health, Kenya; Ministry of Education, Kenya; and the Council of Governors.

The initiatives will bring together clinicians, researchers and trainees in the UK and Kenya to develop the clinical services and research expertise needed to address the non-communicable diseases affecting East Africans, starting with cancer.

In addition, they will provide training to the current healthcare workforce in Kenya to help establish a hub & spoke model for Comprehensive Cancer Care Services, where a central specialist hub at KUTRRH will support local healthcare delivery at 11 regional cancer centres.

The transfer of UK teaching excellence and curriculum development to establish the Centre of Excellence for Healthcare Education & Training at Kisii University will benefit students from both countries and improve clinical practice through the exchange of healthcare professionals between the UK and Kenya.

The initiative will help tackle surging rates of cancer and other non-communicable diseases in Sub Saharan Africa.

The International Agency for Research in Cancer (IARC) report for 2018 estimated 47,887 new cancer cases annually in Kenya, with a mortality of 32,987, a 29% increase since 2012.

The agency also highlighted that seven out of ten cancers were diagnosed late, resulting in some cancers, such as oesophageal cancer, having mortality rates of more than 99%.

Professor Graham Lord, Vice President and Dean at The University of Manchester’s Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Heath is attending the launch.

He said: “Our aim is to improve the standard of healthcare in Kenya, through research, workforce training and education of healthcare professionals. It is a flagship project for the Faculty and one that we hope will make an important difference to Kenyans.

“The work will initially focus on improving cancer outcomes through early detection, rapid diagnosis and the delivery of high-quality care.

“But our ultimate aim is the creation of a resilient healthcare system in Kenya that can cope with the changing disease burden in the country from infectious to non-communicable diseases, including cancer, mental health and cardiovascular diseases.

“This collaboration will directly address the UN Sustainable Development Goals by supporting the provision of Universal Health Coverage within Kenya.

“As the world’s number one university in the Times Higher Education (THE) Impact Rankings last year, we take this responsibility very seriously.”

He added: “Establishing an education pipeline that can deliver a modern, flexible and resilient healthcare workforce capable of responding to the rising tide of cancer is recognised as an urgent priority within the development of a comprehensive cancer care service.

“There has been a surge in incidence and prevalence of non-communicable diseases including cancer in Sub Saharan Africa over the past two decades.

“Consequently, developing a comprehensive cancer care service and high-quality research is an essential way to improve the quality of life of people both in and beyond Kenya.”

Olive Mugenda, Chairperson at KUTRRH, the site for the Centre of Excellence for Cancer Research, commented, “Oesophageal cancer is one of the leading causes of death due to cancer in Kenya, with the mortality rate exceeding 99%. We want to reverse this figure and high quality evidenced research will tell us how. It will provide the answers to one of our biggest health challenges, so we’re delighted that with Manchester we’ve secured a research grant to learn how to improve early diagnosis of the disease and therefore improve treatment.”

Susan Mochache, Principal Secretary to the Ministry of Health, Kenya says, “We have chosen to work with Manchester because they are the best at what they do, and they want to partner with us in seeking real world solutions to some of our biggest health challenges”.

“Manchester share our vision of healthcare in Kenya and understand how high quality evidenced research, the creation of a skilled workforce and improved technologies will improve cancer detection and treatment. Together we are committed to delivering this vision and making the discoveries that will benefit our global communities”.

HE James Ongwae, Governor of Kisii County commented, “The teaching and learning that will take place in the new Healthcare Education & Training Hub we are co-developing, will see us train a new generation of healthcare professionals. This will enable us to address the rising incidence of non-communicable diseases. This flexible multi-professional workforce will increase treatment capacity, meaning more Kenyans will be able to stay in Kenya for their cancer treatment, allowing us to develop our own health system rather than Kenya supporting health systems in other countries”.

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