Collaborate for universal healthcare coverage to succeed

Monday March 04 2019

Conversations about how governments and private entities can make healthcare accessible and affordable have increased in the past few years across the globe.

In developing countries, one of the issues that has consistently come up, and which deserves more attention, is maternal and neonatal mortality. This is especially prevalent in marginalised rural areas in Sub-Saharan Africa.


Many women in these parts of the world have limited access to healthcare facilities and skilled medical practitioners and are often unable to pay their medical bills.

World Health Organization (WHO) data indicates that approximately 830 women die every day from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth, with 99 per cent of all maternal deaths occurring in developing countries.

In Kenya, at least 6,000 women die because of pregnancy complications, according to Unicef. The United Nations agency also estimates the infant mortality rate to stand at 22 deaths per 1,000 live births.


This is a clear indication that while there is a lot being done to curb high maternal and neonatal mortality, the work ahead is far from over.

Last year, we joined Beyond Zero, the campaign by First Lady Margaret Kenyatta to eliminate preventable maternal and infant deaths, as they conducted free maternity screening camps in Narok and Kisumu counties.

The services provided at the camps included vital signs monitoring, maternity screening and electrocardiogram (EGC), a procedure to detect any irregular heartbeats or evidence of prior cardiac problems in the pregnant women.


Throughout the Beyond Zero Medical Safari, we witnessed the power of collaboration as various healthcare providers came together with the aim of improving access to quality healthcare for the people of Kenya. The two camps alone attracted more than 11,000 people, a testament to the importance of the initiative.

The screening camp formed part of the broader Beyond Zero initiative, which is driven by the fundamental belief that ‘No woman will die while giving birth’, working to ensure that all Kenyan mothers deliver safely and children are born healthy and remain so.

Women in semi-urban and rural areas across Kenya often die due to preventable complications during childbirth as they have no access to ultrasound screening to detect critical conditions. Many of these complications could be diagnosed with basic imaging technology.

Many of the women who attended these camps live in the rural areas and lack access to important services such as ultrasound scans. They often fail to attend the recommended four antenatal clinic visits due to lack of funding or access. While such clinics ensure the general well-being of mother and child, an ultrasound scan helps detect pregnancy-related complications.

It is through collaborations such as these that everybody in the healthcare sector can further contribute to the acceleration of universal health coverage in Kenya, in addition to our direct contribution either through service delivery or providing vital medical technology.


Although sometimes the pace may seem slow, considering the amount of work ahead of us, I appreciate the strides that have been made in Kenya.

With deliberate efforts, the quest to provide quality healthcare and reduce maternal and neonatal mortality rate can be realised.

It is imperative that the private sector, in collaboration with the government, commit towards achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) — particularly SDG 3, good health and well-being, which is a driver, indicator and outcome of sustainable development.

With impactful innovations that matter to patients and address the key healthcare challenges that confront society, affordable and accessible screening is possible for women across Kenya.

All of us ought to contribute to a better future by investing in quality primary healthcare, the latest technology and the means of delivering essential services — intensively and collectively across the public and private sectors.

I am convinced that we will see the change we need if we continue to prioritise the provision of quality community-based healthcare delivery.

Mr Westerink is the CEO of Philips Africa. [email protected]