Transforming Community Health in Kenya: A 4-year Journey of the CHU4UHC Platform

Every December 12, the world unites to commemorate International Universal Health Coverage Day. This day serves as a reminder that access to healthcare is a fundamental right, not a privilege.

This year’s theme, “Health for All: Time for Action,” underscores the urgent need for leaders to keep their commitments towards achieving universal health coverage by 2030. This means ensuring everyone, everywhere, has access to the quality health services they need without suffering financial hardship.

On this #UHCDay2023, we look back on our journey as a platform for transforming the community health landscape in Kenya. This retrospective explores the platform’s key accomplishments and outlines its strategic vision for the next three years, paving the way for a healthier future for all.

Co-creation

Recognizing the limitations of fragmented approaches, CHU4UHC was co-created in 2019 with a bold vision for change. Driven by the Johnson & Johnson Foundation’s Centre for Health Worker Innovation, this platform approach united seven diverse organizations, each bringing unique strengths and expertise to the table. This collaborative spirit proved to be the bedrock on which CHU4UHC would build a more impactful and sustainable community health workforce in Kenya.

The achievement of Universal Health Coverage hinges on a robust community health system capable of delivering essential healthcare services, particularly in underserved and marginalized communities. Recognizing this imperative, the Kenyan government and esteemed development partners joined forces to launch CHU4UHC in 2019. 

Since its inception in 2019, this collaborative platform has emerged as a driving force in strengthening the country’s community health system and building a standardized and robust community-based primary healthcare system. Through unwavering commitment and strategic investments, CHU4UHC has achieved significant milestones over the past four years.

Key Achievements

Policy Advocacy and Change

CHU4UHC has actively engaged with policymakers, playing a pivotal role in shaping key policies such as the Community Health Strategy (2020-2025) and the Community Health Policy. This impactful engagement has translated into concrete achievements, including the official recognition of new Community Health Units (CHUs) and the landmark launch of the Community Health Policy.

In 2022, the CHU4UHC platform, with community health at its core, successfully advocated for the recognition and prioritization of Community Health Workers (CHWs) in the manifestos of both major political parties. This advocacy effort culminated in the newly elected government adopting community health services and primary healthcare as the key drivers for achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC). This shift was solidified by a presidential decree officially changing the title of CHWs to Community Health Promoters (CHPs) and committing to providing them with essential equipment, digital tools, and remuneration.

This dream became a reality on September 25, 2023, when the president launched the community health program and distributed 100,000 kits to CHPs nationwide, signifying a significant step towards strengthening community health in Kenya.

H.E President William Ruto during the CHP program and 100,000 CHP kits launch, September 2023.

Shortly after launching the UHC program, the president signed four critical bills into law, further solidifying the commitment to achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in the country. These bills provide vital support across key areas, including primary health care, digital health, social health insurance and facility improvement. 

Resource Mobilization and Financial Sustainability

CHU4UHC’s commitment to advancing community health attracted diverse funding sources, including catalytic support from ELMA Philanthropies. This strategic collaboration has not only supported critical initiatives within the platform but also played a crucial role in attracting additional resources from other stakeholders. This growing ecosystem of funding partners demonstrates the collective recognition of the vital role community health plays in achieving equitable and accessible healthcare for all in Kenya.

By leveraging catalytic funding from ELMA and Johnson & Johnson, the CHU4UHC platform has been able to:

  • Launch and scale impactful initiatives: This includes the deployment of and implementation of the eCHIS system, significantly enhancing the reach and effectiveness of CHPs across Kenya.
  • Attract additional resources: ELMA’s catalytic funding served as a signal of the platform’s potential, attracting further support from other stakeholders who share the vision of a stronger community health system.
  • Build a sustainable future: The diversified funding base ensures long-term financial viability for the platform, enabling continued innovation and expansion of community health programs.

The collaboration between CHU4UHC, ELMA Philanthropies, and Johnson & Johnson exemplifies the power of collective action in driving positive change. By pooling resources and expertise, these partners are creating a sustainable ecosystem that empowers communities and paves the way for a healthier future for all Kenyans.

Strengthening Community Health Systems

CHU4UHC’s collaborative projects span 20 counties and are implemented by our partners: Amref Health Africa, ENAI Africa, Financing Alliance for Health, Living Goods, Lwala Community Alliance, Medic, and UNICEF.

Our interventions focus on empowering Community Health Promoters (CHPs) through upskilling programs, enhancing service delivery through innovative approaches, and establishing sustainable county-level health financing mechanisms.

Leveraging Technology for Efficiency and Impact

CHU4UHC’s commitment to technological advancement and collaborative innovation has resulted in the development and rollout of a transformative tool: eCHIS 2.0. This digital platform, developed by Medic in partnership with CHU4UHC, streamlines data collection and analysis for community health services. As a direct result of this collaboration, eCHIS 2.0 is currently being implemented across numerous counties in Kenya by platform partners and other community health stakeholders.

eCHIS 2.0 significantly enhances program efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability by providing:

  • Real-time data insights
  • Improved reporting and communication
  • Enhanced data quality and security

By empowering community health promoters with eCHIS 2.0, the CHU4UHC platform contributes to a more data-driven and empowered community health system. This impactful intervention demonstrates the transformative power of technology and collaboration in advancing community health and ultimately, improving the lives of Kenyans across the nation.

Priorities for the next three years

To further amplify its impact and advance the vision of UHC in Kenya, CHU4UHC has identified and committed to the following priorities for the next three years:

  • CHP Upskiling: the platform plans to review the CHP curriculum to reflect changes in equipping and capacity build all 100,000 CHPs using the new curriculum.
  • Career progression: CHU4UHC platform seeks to develop career progression policy for CHPS and deploy it in a phased approach over the next 3 years.
  • Community Health Financing: track and advocate for community health financing to sustain gains made.
  • Community Health Data: the CHU4UHC platform will continue sustaining eCHIS at both national and county levels. It also seeks to integrate community health data with facilities EMR through the smart PCN model.
  • Midterm review of the strategy and develop community health strategy (2026-2030)
  • Deploy community scorecards country-wide.

The impact of CHU4UHC on the landscape of community health in Kenya is undeniable. Through collaboration, dedication, and strategic investments, the platform has transformed the community health workforce, communities, and the nation as a whole. The progress achieved in just four years serves as a testament to the power of collective effort and the transformative potential of innovative approaches to community health.

CHU4UHC is deeply committed to advancing the vision of UHC in Kenya. Looking forward, we commit to continuing to partner with the government, development partners, and other stakeholders to tackle remaining challenges and forge a path towards a healthier, more equitable future for all Kenyans. We are confident that through continued collaboration and unwavering dedication, we can further strengthen the community health system, empower CHPs, and ensure access to quality healthcare for every individual, regardless of background or location.

We are proud to be a part of this inspiring journey and look forward to contributing to the future success of community health services in Kenya for years to come.

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