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In the last 25 years, the country has recorded huge gains in improved healthcare infrastructure and services with Kenyans living longer lives. While for example in 1994, life expectancy in Kenya was about 54 years, a child born today can expect to live for 67 years, a difference of almost 13 years.

In the period, Kenya has recorded significant improvement in several key health indicators including a drop-in; malaria, HIV, pneumonia, maternal and child illnesses and deaths. But also there has been a significant increase in non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cancers, diabetes, cardiovascular and chronic respiratory conditions.

The increasing lifestyle diseases have presented new challenges in the provision of adequate financing, technologies and human skills.

Private Sector Facilities
Data shows the number of private-for-profit health facilities have more than doubled since 1999. The health expenditure channeled through private facilities has grown at more than 150 percent every three years since 1990. Despite this growth National Health Accounts indicate that expenditures for general outpatient curative services tend to skew slightly toward the public sector. However, the private sector provides the lion’s share of specialized care, such as eyecare, dentistry, family planning, cancer and cosmetic surgery.

Eye Care
For example, there are 7.5 million Kenyans in need of eye care services with a significant number requiring specialized treatment. There are 90 static eye units and clinics with 700 beds, with another 20 units providing outreach services in both the private and the public sectors. In the early 2000s the Laser Eye Centre in Nairobi, a private high-end eye care outlet became the first medical facility in East and Central Africa to offer advanced laser eye treatment. While today several other facilities are offering laser eye treatment, by 2010, the Laser Eye Centre was also offering cornea transplants. Last year, about 400 Kenyans received corneal transplant at various institutions including the Lions Sight First Hospital, Tenwek Mission Hospital and at LightHouse for Christ Hospital in Mombasa.

Other facilities offering cornea transplant include; PCEA Kikuyu Hospital Eye Unit, Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital, Upper Hill Eye and Laser Centre, Eagle Eye Laser Centre and Kisii Eye Hospital. The Ministry of Health indicates about 600 individuals are on the waiting list for corneal transplants in these centers. But this is only a small percent of the estimated 50,000 needy cases.

The Lions SightFirst Hospital at Loresho, Nairobi runs the Kanubhai Babla Eye Bank, the first such facility in the region for the collection, storage and preservation of eye cornea tissue. Last year, Kenya stamped its advancement in eye care technology in Africa with the first stem cell transplant done successfully at the Laser Eye Centre. “We are very excited about this achievement, which shows eye treatment technology in Kenya has equaled the best anywhere in the world,” says Dr. Mukesh Joshi, director of operations at Laser Eye Centre.

Fertility Treatment
Fourteen years ago on 8th May 2006 Kenya marked another milestone in the region with the birth of the first In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) births also called test-tube babies. On this day, two girls of different couples were born through Cesarean section at Avenue
Hospital in Parklands, Nairobi. The successful IVF procedure had been done at the Nairobi IVF Centre led by Dr Joshua Noreh. Since then it is estimated 1,000-2,000 test tube babies have been born in Kenya. The Kenya Fertility Society, estimates one in every five couples have fertility challenges with an estimated 4.2 million Kenyans requiring interventions to conceive.

While the Nairobi IVF Centre, the pioneer of the technology in Kenya continues to lead in providing assisted reproductive services the sector has recorded tremendous growth with more than two dozen IVF providers operating across Kenya. Others include the Nairobi Fertility Clinic performing about 150 cycles annually. The clinic also runs a sperm bank that offers embryo cryopreservation — the preservation of embryos in sub-zero temperatures.

Also, well-established is the Aga Khan IVF Clinic at the Aga Khan University Hospital, Nairobi which does about 25 cycles monthly, Mediheal Diagnostic and Fertility Centre, Kenyatta National Hospital Fertility Center, Footsteps to Fertility, Fertility Point IVF, The Nairobi West Hospital and Mombasa Assisted Reproductive Centre. Other entrants are Surrogate Mother Kenya at Lower Kabete in Nairobi which offers surrogacy and egg donor services and Harley Street Fertility Centre also in Nairobi.

Lifestyle diseases
The biggest health challenge facing Kenya today is the increase of lifestyle disease including kidney problems, cancers, diabetes, injuries, stroke and heart conditions. A 2015 Ministry of Health survey indicated NCDs to account for over 55 percent of hospital deaths in Kenya while more than 50 percent of all the hospital admissions were due to NCDs. For example, 22,115 cancer deaths were recorded in Kenya in 2012 with the number jumping to 32,987 in 2018 and expected to rise in coming years.

The Kenya Renal Association estimates that the number of patients on dialysis in Kenya - in both private and public hospitals has increased eightfold from 300 in 2006 to 2,400 in 2018. A survey by the Ministry of Health in 2015 showed that close to a quarter of Kenyans had hypertension with only four percent who were on medication having achieved control. Diabetes prevalence is currently estimated at 3.3 per and projected to reach 4.5 percent by 2025.

Counties in the former Central Province and to a lesser extent Eastern Province have a much higher prevalence of raised blood pressure than other counties in Kenya. Despite these high rates of NCDs the country has a shortage of requisite health workers both in numbers and skills. The increase in these diseases is linked to several factors included unhealthy diets, reduced physical activities, environmental pollution and smoking and alcohol use.

Last modified on Sunday, 08 March 2020

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