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Kenya launches first policy aligning research investment with national priorities

October 7, 2019 by Douglas Waudo

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Kenyan Cabinet Secretary for Health Sicily K. Kariuki (left) visits with PATH staff at the Kenya Health Forum 2019. She holds the Research for Health Priorities and Research for Health Policy documents, which she later launched. Photo: PATH/Douglas Waudo.

A potential game-changer for health research in Kenya—the government has launched a new policy framework to guide alignment of research priorities with the country’s health challenges.

Although a number of Kenyan policies address research and development for health—both directly and indirectly—the country had previously lacked an overarching national policy framework to effectively coordinate, prioritize, promote, and regulate the conduct of research for health activities. Health research was scattered across various institutions without a clear framework for coordination. But during the Kenya Health Forum in August 2019, Cabinet Secretary for Health Sicily Kariuki changed that when she launched the Research for Health Policy Framework and the accompanying Research for Health Priorities.

The Research for Health Policy Framework is Kenya's first all-inclusive policy governing investment and coordination of health research. Photo: PATH/Douglas Waudo

The Research for Health Policy Framework is Kenya's first all-inclusive policy governing investment and coordination of health research. Photo: PATH/Douglas Waudo.

The launch marks a turning point in Kenya’s efforts for health research agenda setting. The Research for Health Policy Framework is the country’s first all-inclusive policy and will provide much-needed prioritization for investment, integration, and coordination of health research.

“PATH commends the government for its commitment to seeing the policy through to completion, and has been grateful for the opportunity to partner with the Ministry of Health over the past two and a half years to complete this important policy,” said Rosemarie Muganda, PATH’s regional director for advocacy and public policy.

The policy reflects a number of priorities that PATH has advocated for in Kenya, including increased investment in health research and development, evidence-informed policy change and implementation, and a streamlined regulatory system as an essential part of achieving UHC.

The policy is vital to Kenya’s progress toward global and national goals—particularly its commitment to achieving universal health coverage (UHC) in the next five years, which President Uhuru Kenyatta has committed to achieving before leaving office under his “Big Four Agenda.”

The policy reflects a number of priorities that PATH has advocated for in Kenya, including increased investment in health research and development, evidence-informed policy change and implementation, and a streamlined regulatory system as an essential part of achieving UHC. The policy also outlines key priorities and structures for health research agenda setting, as well as directs the government to support testing on the scale-up of innovations to inform policies that address barriers to access.

Kenyan Cabinet Secretary for Health, Sicily K. Kariuki (right), launches the Research for Health Policy at the Kenya Health Forum 2019. Photo: PATH/Douglas Waudo

Kenyan Cabinet Secretary for Health, Sicily K. Kariuki, launches the Research for Health Policy at the Kenya Health Forum 2019. Photo: PATH/Douglas Waudo.

The policy will nurture innovation for the benefit of Kenyans. It will also clarify the roles and functions of national and county health sectors as they deliver an effective research-for-health ecosystem, and will define norms and standards for health research. To make sure it is implemented effectively, the policy also provides guidance for sustainable financing and monitoring and evaluation of its impact.

“ For UHC to succeed in Kenya, we must invest in all the health building blocks. Key amongst them are human resources and health products and technologies. ”
— Sicily K. Kariuki, Kenyan Cabinet Secretary for Health

PATH advocates will continue to monitor the Research for Health Policy Framework and the Research for Health Priorities to ensure they are fully implemented, delivering on their potential to bring a new era of health research and development in Kenya. Through partnership, evidence generation, and accountability measures, PATH is committed to elevate this common message and to ensure that health research and development is prioritized as a means of growing Kenya’s economy and improving quality of life for all its people.