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Story and Perspective

Kenya’s Primary Health Care Law Paves the Way Toward Universal Health Coverage

Kenya

At Pathfinder, we are working toward a world where everyone, even in the most challenging environments, has what they need to be healthy, thrive, and live the life they choose.  Universal health coverage (UHC) is essential to everything we do.  

We work closely with governments, communities, and civil society organizations to improve access to health services in some of the most challenging contexts—conflict-prone regions, communities experiencing the most devastating impacts of climate change, and areas with only basic health infrastructure.  Our support includes: 

  • Enhancing the capacity of health care workers to improve the quality of care they deliver; 
  • Mobilizing communities to demand access to quality health care services;  
  • Working with policymakers to make progress toward universal health coverage including prioritization of sexual and reproductive health services; and  
  • Using innovative approaches to ensure everyone can access quality health care irrespective of their financial status. 

In Kenya, for example, Pathfinder has played a role in passage of the Primary Health Care Act. Pathfinder staff, as members of the Health NGOs Network, participated in the review and validation of the bill and have been collaborating with our local partners on developing a strategy and guidelines for the implementation of primary health care networks to increase people’s access to services.  

The law, established in 2023 aims to ensure communities across Kenya receive the best possible care at their doorsteps and through referral networks, offering an opportunity for direct funding of primary health care from the government, drawing from national and county governments. Although most people seek services from primary health care facilities, many cannot afford them. This law seeks to drive health equity, leaving no one behind.  

Two aspects of the law are particularly important to health equity. First, the facility improvement fund minimizes bureaucracy in improving health care by allowing health facility managers to make decisions about the way money is used to improve care. Second, by recognizing Kenya’s community health promoters as essential frontline health workers, the law seeks to ensure they are formally streamlined into the health system and paves the way for their renumeration.  

The Social Health Insurance Act, also passed this year, works hand in hand with the Primary Health Care Act to improve health equity. The Social Health Insurance Act establishes three funds—Primary Healthcare Fund, the Social Health Insurance Fund, and the Emergency, Chronic and Critical Illness Fund—to reduce the financial burden on Kenyans who cannot afford health care services.    

  • promotes and fulfills the rights of all persons in Kenya towards the progressive realization of their right to the highest attainable standards of health care;  
  • promotes the implementation of primary health care through a systemic approach and clear delineation of roles of all stakeholders towards realization of universal health coverage;  
  • provides for the establishment of primary health care networks, community health units, and other stakeholder centered engagement forums for sustainable provision of primary health care services;  
  • provides for the role of the multi-disciplinary team in the provision of primary health care services; and  
  • provides for the role of community health officers, community health assistants, and community health promoters in the provision of community-based primary health care services. 

In addition to being involved in the development of important policies that contribute toward UHC, for more than 60 years, Pathfinder has partnered with the Government of Kenya and local organizations to strengthen health systems, develop innovative women-led climate resilience initiatives, and establish and support high-quality, client-centered sexual and reproductive health care services, including family planning, contraception, and  and HIV and AIDS prevention, care, and treatment services. We have provided substantial guidance, training, and technical support to over 250 local partners, including the Ministry of Health, and civil society, faith-based, and community-based organizations. Our programs have contributed to improving and sustaining high-quality, evidence-based, rights-centered, youth-responsive, and gender-sensitive health care. 

With the passage of the Primary Health Care Act, Pathfinder can work in multiple ways to ensure its implementation and sustainability. This support may include: 

  • Developing and implementing innovative financing mechanisms that can mobilize additional resources for health. 
  • Strengthening the health system by continuing to improve the quality of health care services, increasing access to essential medicines and technologies, and enhancing the capacity of health workers. 
  • Promoting community participation and ownership in the design, implementation, and monitoring of health programs. 
  • Advocating for policies and programs that promote equity, social justice, and human rights in health. 
  • Supporting the implementation of government plans, including the Kenya Universal Health Coverage Policy 2020-2030- and the Primary Healthcare Network Guideline.   

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