OGI Kenya

Why youth-friendliness of healthcare delivery systems could enhance fight against cancer in Kenya

Over the past few years, Kenyans have engaged in an emotional debate over whether cancer should be pronounced a national disaster. Rarely this debate is structured enough to deliberate on the root causes of cancer and explore innovative ways to save Kenyans and the World from losses of loved ones and leaders at prime age of leadership. Cancer and other chronic diseases are normally diagnosed at middle age, yet, the debate rarely consider young people as a stakeholder in efforts to trace the menace to its root causes.

70% of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are linked to habits, or risk behaviors that start at adolescence and go on throughout adult life. Perceived stigma, judgement and lack of privacy in healthcare delivery systems prevent access to healthcare, thus, young people find alternatives in the practice risk behaviors e.g. drug abuse, unsafe sex etc.

Youth-friendliness of healthcare delivery systems has been discussed and recognized globally as one way to address unique needs of young people, yet, policies, economic planning and budgetary programs do not reflect efforts to unpack what friendly healthcare system constitute in Kenya. Even with budgetary programs on SRH and efforts such as Universal Health Care (UHC), access is not guaranteed without addressing negative perceptions and lack of trust in the delivery systems.

In this paper, we discuss current state of access to Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) by young people in Kenya – reflections on findings from a survey we conducted in July 2019 to collect ideas and experiences of young in regards to access to SRH. Young people rated public health facilities as the least friendly for the access of SRH.

Finally, in effort to win the trust of young people in healthcare delivery systems and broadly, make efforts to free the middle age population in the near future, from the agony of cancer and chronic diseases, we discuss and recommend participatory co-design of an ideal youth friendly healthcare delivery system. On this, we call upon health policy practitioners, advocates of young people’s issues as well as young people in their organizations and individuals to take action.

In summary, we argue that Kenya’s healthcare delivery system is in violation of young people’s social and economic rights – whether by design or otherwise. Even though social and economic rights are guaranteed and anchored in Kenya’s supreme laws and policies, intended and unintended actions of government and facility management have perpetuated inequalities and discrimination against young people. Access full paper here

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