, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 25 – The Aga Khan has urged governments to tap the benefits of private public partnerships to boost healthcare especially cancer, with statistics of 50 Kenyans dying of the disease every day while 82,000 others are diagnosed with the ailment annually.
Speaking during the opening of the Heart and Cancer Centre at Aga Khan University Hospital, Nairobi, on Monday he expressed concern that unlike in the past when cancer was mostly common in older people, the trend was changing as the disease was spreading to younger people.
“The World Health Organisation warns us that heart diseases and cancer will reach epidemic proportions in the next decade or two unless we take decisive counter-measures. In Kenya alone some 80,000 new cancer cases are diagnosed each year with an unusually high number among young people,” he asserted.
He urged the government to nurture partnerships with the private sector and establish strategies that will help manage cancer and heart diseases to come up with quality as well as affordable medical care services in the country.
He further accentuated the need of investing in proper medical training and research which, he noted, many African countries overlooked.
The Aga Khan called on developing countries to start venturing in quality research and education to equip medical centres with qualified manpower to address medical needs of their citizens.
“Let me mention two investment areas that are most sadly short-changed in the developing world, research and education. Productive research needs to be rooted in patient-based experience, even as sound practice must be informed by new knowledge,” he said.
He insisted on African nations empowering local medical institutions to provide high tech training and medical care in view of the high costs involved to get treatment and studies abroad.
“Let us put behind us the day when young Africans thought they had to go to other parts of the world for quality medical education. Similarly, let the day also pass when African patients think they must go to other parts of the world to find quality medical care,” he commented.
President Mwai Kibaki who launched new state-of-the-art centre shared the same thoughts of concerted efforts in the management of cancer while he appreciated the role played by the private sector in provision of medical services.
The President pledged the government’s commitment to respond to the increasing cases of cancer and heart problems as be promised to speed up finalisation of the Draft Cancer Bill and Strategy to facilitate a broad framework for treatment and control of the two ailments.
“The Government will also fast track the finalisation of the Draft Cancer Bill and Strategy in order to provide a comprehensive framework for the treatment and control of cancer and cardio-vascular diseases. Once enacted, the Bill will complement the Tobacco Control Act and the National Alcohol Control Act that are now operational,” he promised.
President Kibaki further announced the government’s plan to equip Kenyatta National Hospital with modern cancer treatment facilities and also extend the services to other parts of the country to benefit those in rural areas.
Medical Services Minister Prof Anyang Nyong’o who felt that cancer was on the increase due to, among other factors changing lifestyles, singled out reforms in the medical sector as a critical intervention that would offer care to those in need especially the poor in the society.
As he appreciated the launch of the heart and cancer centre in Nairobi, he said Kiambu and Gatundu districts had been offered for training of medical personnel from the Aga Khan University.
Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta who hailed the new centre acknowledged the benefits that Kenyans would reap from the centre citing the challenges faced due to shortage of resources in the medical sector in the country.
He said the launch of the centre was a positive gesture and an example that the government and the private sector in Kenya should emulate to establish medical centres of excellence to counter the shortage of quality medical care and also bring down the cost of treatment.
The Sh4.5 billion centre is designed to respond to the increasing cancer and heart diseases and it is the first of its kind in East Africa.
The five-storey complex equipped with among others five theatres and 23 intensive care beds will also be a research and an education centre for training cardiologists and oncologists.