Why The New Government Must Ramp Up Investment in Preventive Healthcare

A few days ago, can­cer snatched the young and most promis­ing life of 36-year-old Wilbroad ‘Mumo’ Kahi­gi Peter, my Tan­zan­ian son and very dear friend. Despite the numer­ous chemother­a­py and var­i­ous impec­ca­ble treat­ment ses­sions that he received at the Nairo­bi hos­pi­tal, Aga Khan and Muhim­bili hos­pi­tals, he even­tu­al­ly suc­cumbed to this dread­ed disease.

Trag­i­cal­ly, every­day thou­sands of Kenyan fam­i­lies bat­tle with can­cer, often unsuc­cess­ful­ly. Accord­ing to the Min­istry of Health near­ly 80% of can­cer patients in Kenya are diag­nosed at an advanced stage when cure is almost impos­si­ble. Even those report­ed 10,000 Kenyans who trav­el abroad annu­al­ly to seek treat­ment do so because of insuf­fi­cient local diag­nos­tic and treat­ment facilities.

The new Health Cab­i­net Sec­re­tary Susan N. Wafu­la has her work cut out for her. She must fig­ure out bold trans­for­ma­tive lead­er­ship that will deliv­er qual­i­ty health­care to many Kenyans that can­not even afford treat­ment locally.

I recent­ly seized an irre­sistible com­pre­hen­sive med­ical check-up offer through the Thai Embassy in Kenya. The well thought out deal invit­ed my fam­i­ly as med­ical tourists to Bangkok for eleven med­ical exam­i­na­tion items that saw us go through 33 lab­o­ra­to­ry test items. Accord­ing­ly, I com­bined a busi­ness trip to this South­east Asian coun­try with the med­ical checkup.

The check­up was at Phy­athai  Inter­na­tion­al Hos­pi­tal which is locat­ed in Bangkok’s Sanam Pao dis­trict. Found­ed in 1987, this hos­pi­tal Group has grown to become one of the five largest hos­pi­tals in Thai­land. Every day, about 2,500 med­ical tourists from all over the world are treat­ed there.

We arrived at the hos­pi­tal for check-up at 7.35 AM. With­in ten hours, the cour­te­ous and pro­fes­sion­al hos­pi­tal staff had con­duct­ed on 33 lab pre­ferred tests to exam­ine vital signs and phys­i­cal checks, eye screening–visual acu­ity, Bone den­sit­o­m­e­try, elec­tro­car­dio­gram (EKG), chest x‑ray, CTA (64 slides) abdom­i­nal ultra­sound; HPV and Pap test, Dig­i­tal mam­mo­gram among oth­er com­pli­cat­ed tests. The tests cost far less in Thai­land com­pared to Kenya and oth­er parts of the world.

Thank­ful­ly, our tests didn’t unearth seri­ous med­ical issues. But they drove home a point that Kenya needs to seri­ous­ly con­sid­er – pre­ven­tive health­care is ulti­mate­ly cheap­er and more life­sav­ing than cura­tive health­care. The doc­tors who attend­ed to us advised on some pre­ven­tive mea­sures that we can take to thwart some ail­ments from sneak­ing up on us.

Pre­ven­tive health­care is a low-hang­ing fruit that the Ruto Admin­is­tra­tion must seize. At the gov­ern­ment lev­el, there is need to return to the aggres­sive health cam­paigns that char­ac­ter­ized the coro­na peak sea­sons of 2020 – 2021. How­ev­er, these cam­paigns should now encom­pass all chron­ic diseases.

Sim­ple things like con­sum­ing more African Leafy Veg­eta­bles and walk­ing more can low­er can­cer risk. There are of course cas­es of very active peo­ple like my depart­ed son Wilbroad, who was an avid jog­ger, still con­tract­ing can­cer. All the more rea­son for the Gov­ern­ment to dras­ti­cal­ly accel­er­ate roll­out of diag­nos­tic and treat­ment facil­i­ties in all the 47 Coun­ties. But because that will take time and heavy invest­ment, I sug­gest the Gov­ern­ment instant­ly invests in pre­ven­tive healthcare.

Accord­ing to the Unit­ed Nations Office on Drugs and Crime every dol­lar spent on pre­ven­tion can save Gov­ern­ments up to ten dol­lars in lat­er costs. The new Health CS Wafu­la should hang this sta­tis­tic at a promi­nent loca­tion in her office. The start­ing point in this pre­ven­tive direc­tion is suf­fi­cient and healthy food for all Kenyans. The World Bank report­ed a few months ago that the high cost of liv­ing push­es one out of every three house­holds in Kenya to sleep hun­gry. To make mat­ters worse, the cur­rent drought has left 4.1 mil­lion Kenyans with­out ade­quate access to food and water. This is unacceptable.

Indeed, the most pow­er­ful pre­ven­tive care is to ensure that every sin­gle Kenyan can access clean, suf­fi­cient water and ade­quate, healthy food. Mean­while, rest in peace my son Wilbroad. Think green, act green!


About Dr. Kalua Green

He is the Chief Stew­ard of Green Africa Group, a con­glom­er­ate that was envi­sioned in 1991 to con­nect, pro­duce and impact var­i­ous aspi­ra­tions of human­i­ty through Sus­tain­able Mobil­i­ty & Safe­ty Solu­tions, Eco­pre­neur­ship & Agribusi­ness, Ship­ping & Logis­tics, Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Ini­tia­tives, as well as Hos­pi­tal­i­ty & fur­nish­ings sectors

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