Kenyan scientists in the medical field have made a significant breakthrough in unwrapping diagnostics, one of the key areas in ensuring that Kenya attains Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

A study conducted by researchers at the Digital Health Applied Research Centre (DHARC) of Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) is set to revolutionize healthcare in Kenya by shedding light on diagnostics, a critical yet often overlooked aspect in healthcare. 

Dr. Leyla Abdullahi, Senior Policy Analyst at the African Institute for Development Policy (AFIDEP), which supported the project in knowledge translation, underscored the collaborative aspect, stating, “Counties can leverage their technical working groups so that they can learn from each other as they utilize the diagnostics instruments.”

She encouraged all counties to “seize every opportunity to share the tool and document lessons from its use, as it provides evidence at all levels to advocate for resources to address diagnostic gaps in Kenya.” 

While emphasizing the significance of the study, Dr. Jane Akinyi, a researcher at JKUAT, said, “We wanted to find out how realistic it is for the country to achieve UHC.

For Kenya to reach UHC, we must first ensure excellence at the diagnostic level. Confirmatory tests are essential for appropriate therapy, promoting speedy and complete patient recovery while mitigating negative outcomes like antimicrobial resistance.” 

The research carried out under the Diagnostics for Universal Health Coverage (UHC) Tracker (Dx 4 UHC Tracker) project, was conducted in 3 counties of Kisumu, Nakuru, and Kilifi, over a 12-month period spanning 2022 and 2023 as a pilot project.

Dr. Fredrick Oluoch, Director of Public Health and Sanitation for Kisumu County, said, “Policymakers can use the platform to allocate resources strategically and direct funds where they are most needed.

Administrators can also monitor the distribution of diagnostic equipment and human resources to ensure efficient use.”

This initiative consolidates a wealth of diagnostic-related data, offering an interactive and comprehensive overview of diagnostics in the country.

During the period, the researchers collected extensive data from all of Kenya’s level 2 to 6 public health facilities.

They tracked changes in diagnostic availability, capacity allocation, and quality indicators for critical areas such as maternal health, triage, and communicable, and non-communicable diseases.

The project’s dashboard captures a wide range of data, from diagnostic service capabilities to the accessibility of health facilities by citizens.

The information is processed and visualized into user-friendly graphs, maps, and charts, revealing disparities in investments across different health facility levels and underscoring the need for equitable resource allocation within the health sector.

Dr. Haji Masuko, a Family Physician in Kilifi County, underlined the inseparable link between diagnostics and Universal Health Coverage, stating, “As counties roll out primary care networks (PCN) for UHC across Kenya, it should be clear that there is no UHC without diagnostics.

Resources must be made available to support diagnostic services. Regulatory bodies should also support task shifting to address the human resource gap in different counties.”

The diagnostic dashboard represents a significant stride toward a more advanced and effective healthcare system, enabling healthcare stakeholders to make informed decisions and enhance patient outcomes.

Professor Simon Karanja, Principal Investigator of the project and Chief Scientist of DHARC-JKUAT emphasized the project’s far-reaching impact.

He noted, “The study empowers the Ministry of Health and counties to bridge diagnostic gaps effectively across the country.”

To further advance diagnostics, the researchers recommend that counties develop data repositories and enhance peer-to-peer learning.

The Dx 4 UHC Tracker project’s inception can be traced back to a prior study by JKUAT researchers focused on optimizing diagnostic networks for maternal and child health in Nyeri and Kisumu counties. 

This earlier study exposed critical gaps, with financing for diagnostic services emerging as a primary concern. 

The Tracker project was conceived to address these gaps and align efforts with Kenya’s UHC rollout.

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