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Improving the backbone of Kenya’s healthcare systems


Life expectancy in Kenya continues to plummet due to the numerous health concerns the country deals with daily. With health threats such as HIV, tuberculosis and respiratory infections accounting for Kenya’s high mortality rates, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us the severe effects health concerns have on our lives. It has proven the fast and effective decisions that should be essential when dealing with matters that concern the public health and well-being of our citizens.

Kenya’s health officials have been able to make the right decisions on public health with the help of data collected through the Kenya health information systems. However, they face major challenges as the information collected in these systems is of poor data quality, duplicated data and lacks the capacity for data analytics and interpretation. @iLabAfrica- Strathmore University, through its e-health department, has made considerable strides in improving the resources required to implement effective strategies for addressing population health needs in Kenya’s healthcare system.

In conjunction with the Ministry of Health-Kenya, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Bank, the @iLabAfrica Research Centre was tasked with implementing the Kenya Health and Research Observatory (KHRO) Portal. It is a portal designed to enhance the availability and use of data on health status from various health information systems, aiding in the implementation of national strategies and plans towards eradicating health issues and concerns.

The portal has been in effect since 2019 and has aided health officials in making informed decisions on policies and protocols needed to prevent and treat common diseases in society. This innovation has saved thousands of lives by tracking and addressing health needs in different areas of the country where health experts face challenges.

According to research, approximately 800 women die each day as a result of pregnancy or delivery complications. Policymakers can use the data provided on the KHRO portal to make data-driven decisions addressing the needs of expectant women in rural areas such as Siaya County, as information on the health status of women and resources needed in the county are available on the portal.

The portal is making progress in addressing the fifth-millennium development goal of preventing maternal deaths. Innovations like these have proven to be beneficial and if improved, can be of greater impact. The e-Health Department is committed to making further adjustments to the portal with the introduction of machine learning and artificial intelligence. This will improve the quality of data being processed and make data analysis and evaluation manageable for health practitioners when accessing data.

This initiative from Kenya Education Network Trust/KENET, a non-profit membership operator incorporated to support research and education institutions achieve their research and innovation goals, has received up to 1.5 million Kenya shillings in funding to focus on implementing machine learning and AI-driven applications in health domains.

Machine learning and artificial intelligence have been used to refine data sets in health domains, creating a data flow that cleans and shapes the data by removing incomplete and inappropriately formatted data that may be irrelevant or duplicated. This process will improve the quality of the information in these systems, strengthening efforts made in monitoring specific health indicators.
Healthcare providers and facilities will also have a better understanding of correlations between different variables, analysing relationships that signify an underlying event. This implies that healthcare services can identify the root cause of specific health indicators, helping health officials relate specific health problems with the social and economic status of a particular area. This information will allow health officials to address these socio-economic issues with the intent of eradicating the health concerns in a particular area, for instance, by educating illiterate communities on STDs to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS.

The project has the potential to advance health practices in public and private hospitals in Kenya by improving data access and mitigating a wide variety of issues healthcare services face while accessing and analysing data. Healthcare officials can make “evidence-based decisions’ that will augment the success of policies made concerning community health.


This article was written by John Wakhu.



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