Focusing efforts to eliminate disparities in distribution of health workforce

NAIROBI, Kenya, May 5, 2017   – Kenya needs a strong health workforce to deliver essential health services, such as immunizations, skilled birth attendance and the management of chronic diseases like hypertension and diabetes.

According to the Cabinet Secretary (CS) for Health, Dr. Cleopa Mailu, the aspiration of universal health coverage in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is largely dependent on a health workforce that is responsive to the ever-evolving needs of health systems.

Speaking on Thursday at the launch of Kenya Task Sharing Policy and the Health Workforce Report: “Status of Health Professionals in our Country,’’ the CS revealed that Kenya with support from the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has developed electronic databases at the health workers regulatory agencies to provide information that will support attainment of universal healthcare for all.

The CS who was represented by the Director of Medical Services, Dr, Jackson Kioko, revealed that the Task Sharing Policy and the Health Workforce Report will inform the scaling up of access to effective and evidence-based essential health services.

“The development of the National Task Sharing Policy is a major leap towards improving access to effective and evidence-based essential health services while the Task Sharing aims at increasing access to services currently included in the essential health package, to reduce unacceptably high mortality ratio/rates and achieve the set national health targets in the Kenya Vision 2030, the Kenya Health Policy (2014-2030) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s),’ he added.

In 2013, the WHO Report entitled ‘Universal Truth: No Health without a Workforce,’ revealed a severe shortage of health workers across sub-Saharan Africa, including Kenya. The Kenyan National Report found that Kenya has at present only 13.8 health professional, that is: doctors, nurses & midwives as well as clinical officers for every 10,000 people.

The report also highlights the gross disparities in the distribution of healthcare professionals across counties. The ratio of nurses per 10,000 population varied from as high as 9.7 in Nairobi county to as low as 0.1 in Mandera County. Doctors are even more concentrated in urban areas. The ratio of doctors per 10,000 population ranged from as high as 9.5/10,000 population in Nairobi county to as low as 0.8/10,000 in Mandera county.

“The Task Sharing Policy guidelines will assist implementation of the Task Sharing Policy 2017-2030 and enable the health sector to more effectively utilize the health workforce towards increasing service provision of quality of health services,” said Dr. Mailu.

As a public health approach, task sharing has potential to have a huge impact on improving health outcomes and offers pragmatism amidst the health workforce crisis. Task sharing maximizes use of the existing pool of health workers in resource-constrained settings by using a standardized approach to extending appropriate clinical skills to health workers with lower certification and non-professional cadres.