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1.  Historical account of the national health insurance formulation in Kenya: experiences from the past decade 
Background
Many Low-and-Middle-Income countries are considering reviewing their health financing systems to meet the principles of Universal Health Coverage (UHC). One financing mechanism, which has dominated UHC reforms, is the development of health insurance schemes. We trace the historical development of the National Health Insurance (NHI) policy, illuminate stakeholders’ perceptions on the design to inform future development of health financing policies in Kenya.
Methods
We conducted a retrospective policy analysis of the development of a NHI policy in Kenya using data from document reviews and seven in depth interviews with key stakeholders involved in the NHI design. Analysis was conducted using a thematic framework.
Results
The design of a NHI scheme was marked by complex interaction of the actor’s understanding of the design, proposed implementation strategies and the covert opposition of the reform due to several reasons. First, actor’s perception of the cost of the NHI design and its implication to the economy generated opposition. This was due to inadequate communication strategies to articulate the policy, leading to a vacuum of factual information flow to various players. Secondly, perceived fear of implications of the changes among private sector players threatened support and success gained. Thirdly, underlying mistrust associated with perceived lack of government’s commitment towards transparency and good governance affected active engagement of all key players dampening the spirit of collective bargain breeding opposition. Finally, some international actors perceived a clash of their role and that of international programs based on vertical approaches that were inherent in the health system.
Conclusion
The thrust towards UHC using NHI schemes should not only focus on the design of a viable NHI package but should also involve stakeholder engagements, devise ways of improving the health care system, enhance transparency and develop adequate governance structures to institutions mandated to provide leadership in the reform process to overcome covert opposition.
doi:10.1186/s12913-015-0692-8
PMCID: PMC4332452
Health insurance; Universal health care coverage; Policy Analysis
2.  Community perceptions of health insurance and their preferred design features: implications for the design of universal health coverage reforms in Kenya 
Background
Health insurance is currently being considered as a mechanism for promoting progress to universal health coverage (UHC) in many African countries. The concept of health insurance is relatively new in Africa, it is hardly well understood and remains unclear how it will function in countries where the majority of the population work outside the formal sector. Kenya has been considering introducing a national health insurance scheme (NHIS) since 2004. Progress has been slow, but commitment to achieve UHC through a NHIS remains. This study contributes to this process by exploring communities’ understanding and perceptions of health insurance and their preferred designs features. Communities are the major beneficiaries of UHC reforms. Kenyans should understand the implications of health financing reforms and their preferred design features considered to ensure acceptability and sustainability.
Methods
Data presented in this paper are part of a study that explored feasibility of health insurance in Kenya. Data collection methods included a cross-sectional household survey (n = 594 households) and focus group discussions (n = 16).
Results
About half of the household survey respondents had at least one member in a health insurance scheme. There was high awareness of health insurance schemes but limited knowledge of how health insurance functions as well as understanding of key concepts related to income and risk cross-subsidization. Wide dissatisfaction with the public health system was reported. However, the government was the most preferred and trusted agency for collecting revenue as part of a NHIS. People preferred a comprehensive benefit package that included inpatient and outpatient care with no co-payments. Affordability of premiums, timing of contributions and the extent to which population needs would be met under a contributory scheme were major issues of concern for a NHIS design. Possibilities of funding health care through tax instead of NHIS were raised and preferred by the majority.
Conclusion
This study provides important information on community understanding and perceptions of health insurance. As Kenya continues to prepare for UHC, it is important that communities are educated and engaged to ensure that the NHIS is acceptable to the population it serves.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-13-474
PMCID: PMC3842821  PMID: 24219335
4.  Catastrophic health care spending and impoverishment in Kenya 
Background
Many health systems in Africa are funded primarily through out-of-pocket payments. Out-of-pocket payments prevent people from seeking care, can result to catastrophic health spending and lead to impoverishment. This paper estimates the burden of out-of-pocket payments in Kenya; the incidence and intensity of catastrophic health care expenditure and the effect of health spending on national poverty estimates.
Methods
Data were drawn from a nationally representative health expenditure and utilization survey (n = 8414) conducted in 2007. The survey provided detailed information on out-of-pocket payments and consumption expenditure. Standard data analytical techniques were applied to estimate the incidence and intensity of catastrophic health expenditure. Various thresholds were applied to demonstrate the sensitivity of catastrophic measures.
Results
Each year, Kenyan households spend over a tenth of their budget on health care payments. The burden of out-of-pocket payments is highest among the poor. The poorest households spent a third of their resources on health care payments each year compared to only 8% spent by the richest households. About 1.48 million Kenyans are pushed below the national poverty line due to health care payments.
Conclusions
Kenyans are becoming poorer due to health care payments. The need to protect individuals from health care related impoverishment calls for urgent reforms in the Kenyan health system. An important policy question remains what health system reforms are needed in Kenya to ensure that financial risk protection for all is achieved.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-12-413
PMCID: PMC3561146  PMID: 23170770
5.  A Cost Effectiveness and Capacity Analysis for the Introduction of Universal Rotavirus Vaccination in Kenya: Comparison between Rotarix and RotaTeq Vaccines 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(10):e47511.
Background
Diarrhoea is an important cause of death in the developing world, and rotavirus is the single most important cause of diarrhoea associated mortality. Two vaccines (Rotarix and RotaTeq) are available to prevent rotavirus disease. This analysis was undertaken to aid the decision in Kenya as to which vaccine to choose when introducing rotavirus vaccination.
Methods
Cost-effectiveness modelling, using national and sentinel surveillance data, and an impact assessment on the cold chain.
Results
The median estimated incidence of rotavirus disease in Kenya was 3015 outpatient visits, 279 hospitalisations and 65 deaths per 100,000 children under five years of age per year. Cumulated over the first five years of life vaccination was predicted to prevent 34% of the outpatient visits, 31% of the hospitalizations and 42% of the deaths. The estimated prevented costs accumulated over five years totalled US$1,782,761 (direct and indirect costs) with an associated 48,585 DALYs. From a societal perspective Rotarix had a cost-effectiveness ratio of US$142 per DALY (US$5 for the full course of two doses) and RotaTeq US$288 per DALY ($10.5 for the full course of three doses). RotaTeq will have a bigger impact on the cold chain compared to Rotarix.
Conclusion
Vaccination against rotavirus disease is cost-effective for Kenya irrespective of the vaccine. Of the two vaccines Rotarix was the preferred choice due to a better cost-effectiveness ratio, the presence of a vaccine vial monitor, the requirement of fewer doses and less storage space, and proven thermo-stability.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0047511
PMCID: PMC3480384  PMID: 23115650
6.  Does the distribution of health care benefits in Kenya meet the principles of universal coverage? 
BMC Public Health  2012;12:20.
Background
The 58th World Health Assembly called for all health systems to move towards universal coverage where everyone has access to key promotive, preventive, curative and rehabilitative health interventions at an affordable cost. Universal coverage involves ensuring that health care benefits are distributed on the basis of need for care and not on ability to pay. The distribution of health care benefits is therefore an important policy question, which health systems should address. The aim of this study is to assess the distribution of health care benefits in the Kenyan health system, compare changes over two time periods and demonstrate the extent to which the distribution meets the principles of universal coverage.
Methods
Two nationally representative cross-sectional households surveys conducted in 2003 and 2007 were the main sources of data. A comprehensive analysis of the entire health system is conducted including the public sector, private-not-for-profit and private-for-profit sectors. Standard benefit incidence analysis techniques were applied and adopted to allow application to private sector services.
Results
The three sectors recorded similar levels of pro-rich distribution in 2003, but in 2007, the private-not-for-profit sector was pro-poor, public sector benefits showed an equal distribution, while the private-for-profit sector remained pro-rich. Larger pro-rich disparities were recorded for inpatient compared to outpatient benefits at the hospital level, but primary health care services were pro-poor. Benefits were distributed on the basis of ability to pay and not on need for care.
Conclusions
The principles of universal coverage require that all should benefit from health care according to need. The Kenyan health sector is clearly inequitable and benefits are not distributed on the basis of need. Deliberate efforts should be directed to restructuring the Kenyan health system to address access barriers and ensure that all Kenyans benefit from health care when they need it.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-20
PMCID: PMC3280172  PMID: 22233470
7.  Viewing the Kenyan health system through an equity lens: implications for universal coverage 
Introduction
Equity and universal coverage currently dominate policy debates worldwide. Health financing approaches are central to universal coverage. The way funds are collected, pooled, and used to purchase or provide services should be carefully considered to ensure that population needs are addressed under a universal health system. The aim of this paper is to assess the extent to which the Kenyan health financing system meets the key requirements for universal coverage, including income and risk cross-subsidisation. Recommendations on how to address existing equity challenges and progress towards universal coverage are made.
Methods
An extensive review of published and gray literature was conducted to identify the sources of health care funds in Kenya. Documents were mainly sourced from the Ministry of Medical Services and the Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation. Country level documents were the main sources of data. In cases where data were not available at the country level, they were sought from the World Health Organisation website. Each financing mechanism was analysed in respect to key functions namely, revenue generation, pooling and purchasing.
Results
The Kenyan health sector relies heavily on out-of-pocket payments. Government funds are mainly allocated through historical incremental approach. The sector is largely underfunded and health care contributions are regressive (i.e. the poor contribute a larger proportion of their income to health care than the rich). Health financing in Kenya is fragmented and there is very limited risk and income cross-subsidisation. The country has made little progress towards achieving international benchmarks including the Abuja target of allocating 15% of government's budget to the health sector.
Conclusions
The Kenyan health system is highly inequitable and policies aimed at promoting equity and addressing the needs of the poor and vulnerable have not been successful. Some progress has been made towards addressing equity challenges, but universal coverage will not be achieved unless the country adopts a systemic approach to health financing reforms. Such an approach should be informed by the wider health system goals of equity and efficiency.
doi:10.1186/1475-9276-10-22
PMCID: PMC3129586  PMID: 21612669
8.  An increase in the burden of neonatal admissions to a rural district hospital in Kenya over 19 years 
BMC Public Health  2010;10:591.
Background
Most of the global neonatal deaths occur in developing nations, mostly in rural homes. Many of the newborns who receive formal medical care are treated in rural district hospitals and other peripheral health centres. However there are no published studies demonstrating trends in neonatal admissions and outcome in rural health care facilities in resource poor regions. Such information is critical in planning public health interventions. In this study we therefore aimed at describing the pattern of neonatal admissions to a Kenyan rural district hospital and their outcome over a 19 year period, examining clinical indicators of inpatient neonatal mortality and also trends in utilization of a rural hospital for deliveries.
Methods
Prospectively collected data on neonates is compared to non-neonatal paediatric (≤ 5 years old) admissions and deliveries' in the maternity unit at Kilifi District Hospital from January 1st 1990 up to December 31st 2008, to document the pattern of neonatal admissions, deliveries and changes in inpatient deaths. Trends were examined using time series models with likelihood ratios utilised to identify indicators of inpatient neonatal death.
Results
The proportion of neonatal admissions of the total paediatric ≤ 5 years admissions significantly increased from 11% in 1990 to 20% by 2008 (trend 0.83 (95% confidence interval 0.45 -1.21). Most of the increase in burden was from neonates born in hospital and very young neonates aged < 7days. Hospital deliveries also increased significantly. Clinical diagnoses of neonatal sepsis, prematurity, neonatal jaundice, neonatal encephalopathy, tetanus and neonatal meningitis accounted for over 75% of the inpatient neonatal admissions. Inpatient case fatality for all ≤ 5 years declined significantly over the 19 years. However, neonatal deaths comprised 33% of all inpatient death among children aged ≤ 5 years in 1990, this increased to 55% by 2008. Tetanus 256/390 (67%), prematurity 554/1,280(43%) and neonatal encephalopathy 253/778(33%) had the highest case fatality. A combination of six indicators: irregular respiration, oxygen saturation of <90%, pallor, neck stiffness, weight < 1.5 kg, and abnormally elevated blood glucose > 7 mmol/l predicted inpatient neonatal death with a sensitivity of 81% and a specificity of 68%.
Conclusions
There is clear evidence of increasing burden in neonatal admissions at a rural district hospital in contrast to reducing numbers of non-neonatal paediatrics' admissions aged ≤ 5years. Though the inpatient case fatality for all admissions aged ≤ 5 years declined significantly, neonates now comprise close to 60% of all inpatient deaths. Simple indicators may identify neonates at risk of death.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-591
PMCID: PMC2965720  PMID: 20925939
9.  The economic costs of malaria in four Kenyan districts: do household costs differ by disease endemicity? 
Malaria Journal  2010;9:149.
Background
Malaria inflicts significant costs on households and on the economy of malaria endemic countries. There is also evidence that the economic burden is higher among the poorest in a population, and that cost burdens differ significantly between wet and dry seasons. What is not clear is whether, and how, the economic burden of malaria differs by disease endemicity. The need to account for geographical and epidemiological differences in the estimation of the social and economic burden of malaria is well recognized, but there is limited data, if any, to support this argument. This study sought to contribute towards filling this gap by comparing malaria cost burdens in four Kenyan districts of different endemicity.
Methods
A cross-sectional household survey was conducted during the peak malaria transmission season in the poorest areas in four Kenyan districts with differing malaria transmission patterns (n = 179 households in Bondo; 205 Gucha; 184 Kwale; 141 Makueni).
Findings
There were significant differences in duration of fever, perception of fever severity and cost burdens. Fever episodes among adults and children over five years in Gucha and Makueni districts (highland endemic and low acute transmission districts respectively) lasted significantly longer than episodes reported in Bondo and Kwale districts (high perennial transmission and seasonal, intense transmission, respectively). Perceptions of illness severity also differed between districts: fevers reported among older children and adults in Gucha and Makueni districts were reported as severe compared to those reported in the other districts. Indirect and total costs differed significantly between districts but differences in direct costs were not significant. Total household costs were highest in Makueni (US$ 19.6 per month) and lowest in Bondo (US$ 9.2 per month).
Conclusions
Cost burdens are the product of complex relationships between social, economic and epidemiological factors. The cost data presented in this study reflect transmission patterns in the four districts, suggesting that a relationship between costs burdens and the nature of transmission might exist, and that the same warrants more attention from researchers and policy makers.
doi:10.1186/1475-2875-9-149
PMCID: PMC2890678  PMID: 20515508
10.  Barriers to prompt and effective malaria treatment among the poorest population in Kenya 
Malaria Journal  2010;9:144.
Background
Prompt access to effective malaria treatment is central to the success of malaria control worldwide, but few fevers are treated with effective anti-malarials within 24 hours of symptoms onset. The last two decades saw an upsurge of initiatives to improve access to effective malaria treatment in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa. Evidence suggests that the poorest populations remain least likely to seek prompt and effective treatment, but the factors that prevent them from accessing interventions are not well understood. With plans under way to subsidize ACT heavily in Kenya and other parts of Africa, there is urgent need to identify policy actions to promote access among the poor. This paper explores access barriers to effective malaria treatment among the poorest population in four malaria endemic districts in Kenya.
Methods
The study was conducted in the poorest areas of four malaria endemic districts in Kenya. Multiple data collection methods were applied including: a cross-sectional survey (n = 708 households); 24 focus group discussions; semi-structured interviews with health workers (n = 34); and patient exit interviews (n = 359).
Results
Multiple factors related to affordability, acceptability and availability interact to influence access to prompt and effective treatment. Regarding affordability, about 40 percent of individuals who self-treated using shop-bought drugs and 42 percent who visited a formal health facility reported not having enough money to pay for treatment, and having to adopt coping strategies including borrowing money and getting treatment on credit in order to access care. Other factors influencing affordability were seasonality of illness and income sources, transport costs, and unofficial payments. Regarding acceptability, the major interrelated factors identified were provider patient relationship, patient expectations, beliefs on illness causation, perceived effectiveness of treatment, distrust in the quality of care and poor adherence to treatment regimes. Availability barriers identified were related to facility opening hours, organization of health care services, drug and staff shortages.
Conclusions
Ensuring that all individuals suffering from malaria have prompt access to effective treatment remains a challenge for resource constrained health systems. Policy actions to address the multiple barriers of access should be designed around access dimensions, and should include broad interventions to revitalize the public health care system. Unless additional efforts are directed towards addressing access barriers among the poor and vulnerable, malaria will remain a major cause of morbidity and mortality in sub-Saharan Africa.
doi:10.1186/1475-2875-9-144
PMCID: PMC2892503  PMID: 20507555
11.  Towards achieving Abuja targets: identifying and addressing barriers to access and use of insecticides treated nets among the poorest populations in Kenya 
BMC Public Health  2010;10:137.
Background
Ensuring that the poor and vulnerable population benefit from malaria control interventions remains a challenge for malaria endemic countries. Until recently, ownership and use of insecticides treated nets (ITNs) in most countries was low and inequitable, although coverage has increased in countries where free ITN distribution is integrated into mass vaccination campaigns. In Kenya, free ITNs were distributed to children aged below five years in 2006 through two mass campaigns. High and equitable coverage were reported after the campaigns in some districts, although national level coverage remained low, suggesting that understanding barriers to access remains important. This study was conducted to explore barriers to ownership and use of ITNs among the poorest populations before and after the mass campaigns, to identify strategies for improving coverage, and to make recommendations on how increased coverage levels can be sustained.
Methods
The study was conducted in the poorest areas of four malaria endemic districts in Kenya. Multiple data collection methods were applied including: cross-sectional surveys (n = 708 households), 24 focus group discussions and semi-structured interviews with 70 ITN suppliers.
Results
Affordability was reported as a major barrier to access but non-financial barriers were also shown to be important determinants. On the demand side key barriers to access included: mismatch between the types of ITNs supplied through interventions and community preferences; perceptions and beliefs on illness causes; physical location of suppliers and; distrust in free delivery and in the distribution agencies. Key barriers on the supply side included: distance from manufacturers; limited acceptability of ITNs provided through interventions; crowding out of the commercial sector and the price. Infrastructure, information and communication played a central role in promoting or hindering access.
Conclusions
Significant resources have been directed towards addressing affordability barriers through providing free ITNs to vulnerable groups, but the success of these interventions depends largely on the degree to which other barriers to access are addressed. Only if additional efforts are directed towards addressing non-financial barriers to access, will high coverage levels be achieved and sustained.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-137
PMCID: PMC2847543  PMID: 20233413
12.  Reviewing the literature on access to prompt and effective malaria treatment in Kenya: implications for meeting the Abuja targets 
Malaria Journal  2009;8:243.
Background
Effective case management is central to reducing malaria mortality and morbidity worldwide, but only a minority of those affected by malaria, have access to prompt effective treatment.
In Kenya, the Division of Malaria Control is committed to ensuring that 80 percent of childhood fevers are treated with effective anti-malarial medicines within 24 hours of fever onset, but this target is largely unmet. This review aimed to document evidence on access to effective malaria treatment in Kenya, identify factors that influence access, and make recommendations on how to improve prompt access to effective malaria treatment. Since treatment-seeking patterns for malaria are similar in many settings in sub-Saharan Africa, the findings presented in this review have important lessons for other malaria endemic countries.
Methods
Internet searches were conducted in PUBMED (MEDLINE) and HINARI databases using specific search terms and strategies. Grey literature was obtained by soliciting reports from individual researchers working in the treatment-seeking field, from websites of major organizations involved in malaria control and from international reports.
Results
The review indicated that malaria treatment-seeking occurs mostly in the informal sector; that most fevers are treated, but treatment is often ineffective. Irrational drug use was identified as a problem in most studies, but determinants of this behaviour were not documented. Availability of non-recommended medicines over-the-counter and the presence of substandard anti-malarials in the market are well documented. Demand side determinants of access include perception of illness causes, severity and timing of treatment, perceptions of treatment efficacy, simplicity of regimens and ability to pay. Supply side determinants include distance to health facilities, availability of medicines, prescribing and dispensing practices and quality of medicines. Policy level factors are around the complexity and unclear messages regarding drug policy changes.
Conclusion
Kenya, like many other African countries, is still far from achieving the Abuja targets. The government, with support from donors, should invest adequately in mechanisms that promote access to effective treatment. Such approaches should focus on factors influencing multiple dimensions of access and will require the cooperation of all stakeholders working in malaria control.
doi:10.1186/1475-2875-8-243
PMCID: PMC2773788  PMID: 19863788
13.  Reducing user fees for primary health care in Kenya: Policy on paper or policy in practice? 
Background
Removing user fees in primary health care services is one of the most critical policy issues being considered in Africa. User fees were introduced in many African countries during the 1980s and their impacts are well documented. Concerns regarding the negative impacts of user fees have led to a recent shift in health financing debates in Africa. Kenya is one of the countries that have implemented a user fees reduction policy. Like in many other settings, the new policy was evaluated less that one year after implementation, the period when expected positive impacts are likely to be highest. This early evaluation showed that the policy was widely implemented, that levels of utilization increased and that it was popular among patients. Whether or not the positive impacts of user fees removal policies are sustained has hardly been explored. We conducted this study to document the extent to which primary health care facilities in Kenya continue to adhere to a 'new' charging policy 3 years after its implementation.
Methods
Data were collected in two districts (Kwale and Makueni). Multiple methods of data collection were applied including a cross-sectional survey (n = 184 households Kwale; 141 Makueni), Focus Group Discussions (n = 12) and patient exit interviews (n = 175 Kwale; 184 Makueni).
Results
Approximately one third of the survey respondents could not correctly state the recommended charges for dispensaries, while half did not know what the official charges for health centres were. Adherence to the policy was poor in both districts, but facilities in Makueni were more likely to adhere than those in Kwale. Only 4 facilities in Kwale adhered to the policy compared to 10 in Makueni. Drug shortage, declining revenue, poor policy design and implementation processes were the main reasons given for poor adherence to the policy.
Conclusion
We conclude that reducing user fees in primary health care in Kenya is a policy on paper that is yet to be implemented fully. We recommend that caution be taken when deciding on how to reduce or abolish user fees and that all potential consequences are carefully considered.
doi:10.1186/1475-9276-8-15
PMCID: PMC2683851  PMID: 19422726
14.  Rethinking the economic costs of malaria at the household level: Evidence from applying a new analytical framework in rural Kenya 
Malaria Journal  2006;5:76.
Background
Malaria imposes significant costs on households and the poor are disproportionately affected. However, cost data are often from quantitative surveys with a fixed recall period. They do not capture costs that unfold slowly over time, or seasonal variations. Few studies investigate the different pathways through which malaria contributes towards poverty. In this paper, a framework indicating the complex links between malaria, poverty and vulnerability at the household level is developed and applied using data from rural Kenya.
Methods
Cross-sectional surveys in a wet and dry season provide data on treatment-seeking, cost-burdens and coping strategies (n = 294 and n = 285 households respectively). 15 case study households purposively selected from the survey and followed for one year provide in-depth qualitative information on the links between malaria, vulnerability and poverty.
Results
Mean direct cost burdens were 7.1% and 5.9% of total household expenditure in the wet and dry seasons respectively. Case study data revealed no clear relationship between cost burdens and vulnerability status at the end of the year. Most important was household vulnerability status at the outset. Households reporting major malaria episodes and other shocks prior to the study descended further into poverty over the year. Wealthier households were better able to cope.
Conclusion
The impacts of malaria on household economic status unfold slowly over time. Coping strategies adopted can have negative implications, influencing household ability to withstand malaria and other contingencies in future. To protect the poor and vulnerable, malaria control policies need to be integrated into development and poverty reduction programmes.
doi:10.1186/1475-2875-5-76
PMCID: PMC1570360  PMID: 16939658

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