The World Health Organization has ranked Kenya as a country where a good range of essential health services are offered.
In the State of Health in Africa report, which provides an overview of the status of health in the region, the UN health body notes an improvement of health in the region.
However, the report notes that this achievement can only be sustained and expanded if countries significantly improve the way they deliver essential health services to the people who need them most.
The reports also assesses the performance of health systems and analyses their impact on the health of people in the region.
The report was launched by WHO Regional Director for Africa Dr Matshidiso Moeti in Dakar, Senegal, during the 68th session of the WHO Regional Committee for Africa.
The report comes months after the government declared a commitment to offering affordable healthcare for all Kenyans.
In his State of the Nation address to Parliament in May, President Uhuru Kenyatta outlined the progress Kenya has made in various health indicators such as infant mortality which has dropped from 52 to 39 deaths for every 1,000 live births; child mortality which dropped from 74 to 53 deaths per 1,000 live births and maternal mortality from 488 to 362 for every 100,000 live births.
These and other aspects have put Kenya on top of the regional mapping. In the report, Algeria was lauded for good coverage of available health services, while Cape Verde was applauded for good community demand for essential services, and resilience of health systems.
Mauritius topped in access to health services, Namibia recorded good financial risk protection, Seychelles was commended for good coverage of health related services and South Africa was praised for good health security.
WHO says identifying countries with good practices helps others can learn lessons across the different dimensions of universal health coverage and other health targets that are part of the sustainable development goals (SDGs).
In 2015, countries committed to achieving a range of health targets by 2030 to ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all people.
The report suggests that countries should place more focus on the performance of their health systems, to achieve crosscutting and sustainable improvements in universal health coverage and other targets influencing health across the 17 sustainable development goals.
“This report is not a country scorecard. Its purpose is to act as a compass to guide progress towards health in the sustainable development goals.
“The regional office aims to regularly provide such information to countries, so that they can attain their health goals in the most efficient and effective manner,” observed the WHO.
There has been a significant improvement in the state of health in Africa with healthy life expectancy - time spent in full health - in the region increasing from 50.9 years to 53.8 be-tween 2012 and 2015 - the most marked increase for any region in the world.
The top killers are still lower respiratory infections, HIV and diarrhoea and countries have routinely focused on preventing and treating this trio, often through specialised programmes.
“I’m proud that Africans are now living longer and healthier lives,” said Dr Moeti. “Nearly three years of extra health is a gift that makes us all proud. Of course we hope that these gains will continue and the region will reach global standards.”
However, universal health coverage requires all conditions affecting a population, not only priority conditions be improved. Chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer are now claiming more lives with people aged 30 to 70 years in the region having a one in five chance of dying from a non-communicable disease (NCDs).
Countries are specifically failing to provide essential services to two critical age groups – adolescents and the elderly.
As the population ages in Africa, the elderly need senior care. However, almost a third of respondents surveyed as part of the report highlighted the absence of any services for the elderly in their countries.
“Health services must keep up with the evolving health trends in the region,” said Dr Moeti.
“In the past we focused on specific diseases as these were causing a disproportionately high number of deaths. We have been highly successful at stopping these threats and people’s health is now being challenged by a broad range of conditions. We need to develop a new and more holistic approach to health.”