Kenya's ailing health sector has received an additional boost with a partnership between Boehringer Ingelheim and the AMPATH Consortium.
Boehringer Ingelheim is one of the world's leading pharmaceutical companies.
The long-term strategic agreement aims at enabling better health care access in the country whose one of the main agenda is Universal Health Care (UHC) access for all.
The partnership between AMPATH and Boehringer Ingelheim will also offer expertise for local communities and health care providers.
This will be achieved by developing targeted community-based strategies, geared towards enhancing local skill sets and expertise among medical personnel, improving referral mechanisms and services, and increasing access to essential diabetes and hypertension medication.
The AMPATH Consortium comprises of multiple North American academic institutions led by Indiana University and partners with the Moi University and Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Western Kenya.
These organisations work together to exchange knowledge, share resources, train medical professionals and reach patients and whole communities.
This is done in partnership with the local ministry of health.
Boehringer Ingelheim will support these initiatives by driving AMPATH's programs with funding, in-kind support, and expertise as part of its In Reach Africa initiative, aimed at facilitating quality and innovative health care access across the African continent.
AMPATH's integrated cardiovascular disease (CVD) management program focuses on community screening for diabetes and hypertension, with thosetesting positive referred to a health center.
Boehringer Ingelheim will support with the training of health care workers, the acquisition of basic diagnostic devices such as glucometers, BP machines, weighing scales, and appropriate tools for monitoring and evaluation.
The collaboration will cover three main strategic areas of activity including equipping health care workers with the requisite mentorship and skills they need, as well as referral guidelines, with the goal of supporting care using innovative approaches.
Healthcare providers will be equipped with the knowledge and skills to manage hypertension and diabetes.
In addition, a care program at all levels of the health care system will be implemented so that care is targeted and available depending on the severity of the disease.
Dr Jeremiah Laktabai, Head of Population Services at AMPATH said, "Helping people means so much more than medical treatment. It's only when we combine care with nutrition and family support, education, counseling, health insurance, food and income security, and self-sufficiency that we truly change lives for the better."
He added that at the community level, they will focus on screening and linking patients with hypertension and diabetes to providing adequate care.
"At the lowest level health facilities, we will support nurses with training, mentorship, and referral guidelines. With increased screening efforts using various community-based strategies, we will increase access to care through both group- and facility-based care, and finally increase access to essential medications for diabetes and hypertension through strengthening the existing supply chain mechanisms, and using innovations such as our revolving fund pharmacies," he added.
Boehringer Ingelheim's Sub-Saharan Africa Head of Human Pharma, Ayman Eissa, said, "With the aim of enabling vital health care access, imparting invaluable skills to the local workforce and also improving referral process, we will work closely in partnership with the AMPATH team to support their ability to improve the quality of care offered to patients."
She added, "Their work in developing culturally appropriate and contextualized referral protocols for management of both primary/non-complex and complex patient populations and our support in sustaining these centers and providing access to diagnostic devices will ensure that patients with complications will continue to be a focus."
Improving referral mechanisms and services will also be a key component of ensuring a care system that links primary and specialty chronic disease services.
Cardiovascular disease represents an important complication of uncontrolled diabetes and hypertension that is now the leading cause of non-communicable disease deaths globally.
In Kenya, hypertension treatment and control rates have been reported as suboptimal.
For example, in a cross-sectional study looking at prevalence, treatment and control of hypertension among type 2 diabetic patients at a referral hospital, good blood pressure control was observed in only 40 per cent of patients.
As of 2017, it was estimated that there were 458,900 reported cases of diabetes in Kenya, set to rise even further to 498,000 cases by the year 2030
This makes it all the more imperative to put comprehensive healthcare protocols in place, which will be aided as a result of the new partnership between Boehringer Ingelheim and the AMPATH Consortium.
In another population-based cross-sectional survey of two slums in Nairobi, only 20 per cent of patients who had diabetes were aware of their condition and fewer than 5 per cent of patients had their blood glucose under control
Therefore, early diagnosis and linkage to care are important cornerstones of successful management of chronic illnesses and the prevention of acute complications.