National Conference Inspires Health Leaders in Kenya

National Conference Inspires Health Leaders in Kenya

Maria Francisco, USAID, with guest speakers from Ethiopia, Dr. N. Kedir Bilal, and Ghana, Dr. Elias Sory. {Photo credit: MSH.}Photo credit: MSH.

Today, in Nairobi, Kenya, we’re celebrating the opening of the First National Conference on Health Leadership, Management and Governance, a joint undertaking of the Ministry of Medical Services and the Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation with support from Management Sciences for Health through the USAID-funded Leadership, Management and Sustainability Project in Kenya (LMS/Kenya).

By coincidence, it also marks the second anniversary of my own arrival in Kenya to assume responsibilities as the communications specialist on the LMS/Kenya project. In these past two years, I've seen the “buzz” about leadership and management in the health sector grow into a virtual shout. This conference is the culmination of a steady and persistent push to strengthen health leadership and management capacity in Kenya which started long before I came here.

The energy around the subject, which has charged the opening-day activities, also comes from the streets outside the conference hall. As health leaders and managers are meeting inside the Intercontinental Hotel in the central business district, Kenya’s top political candidates are nearby presenting their official nomination papers for the national elections scheduled to take place on March 4 and the streets outside have been jammed with the candidates’ political supporters.

Mugo Kibati, Vision 2030 Secretariat

The newly-elected government will hold the profound responsibility of furthering the implementation of Kenya’s 2010 Constitution which states, significantly, that health is a human right. Meanwhile, the responsibility for making that conviction a practical reality lies with many of the participants at this conference. Taking into consideration the post-election mandate to transition central and provincial authority to newly-established county governments, including many of the country’s health services, is the task these participants face. The conference theme appropriately captures this urgent challenge: “Towards our devolved health system: leading and managing change for better health.”

In the midst of the bustle and excitement of the day—more than 250 health leaders and managers are attending this event—I’ve been struck by the determined commitment and encouragement of the speakers and the serious attention and concern of the audience. The morning’s opening speeches by Ministry officials and co-sponsors, and particularly by keynote speaker, Mugo Kibati, the Secretariat of Kenya’s Vision 2030, inspired all of us to seize the moment and use this conference to identify key recommendations that will guide the sector through the transition that lies ahead. Kenya’s new constitution adopts the tenet that health is a human right that should be available to all its citizens. It also calls for the empowerment of its people. In Swahili, we say Afya yetu or “our health, our responsibility.”

Kenya Health LMG Conference participants celebrate.

While the feeling of enthusiasm is high and the "can-do" mood pervasive, it is still only the first day of this four-day conference. As we look forward to a busy week, participants must also look beyond this week and beyond the walls of the conference hall to years ahead and the streets outside. The key to a successful conference will be not only the strength of the recommendations we identify and articulate, but whether they are relevant and actionable to health leaders and managers around the country.

For me, it’s especially exciting and rewarding to expand the reach of this critical discussion via the Health Systems Management in Kenya website on which the conference proceedings are being live-streamed courtesy of Kenya’s telecommunications giant, Safaricom. The conference has been graced by guest speakers from Ethiopia, Ghana and Tanzania as well as participants from Afghanistan who have come to share and hear stories that other countries have faced under similar circumstances. By live-streaming this conference, we in Kenya now have the opportunity to share the Kenyan experience with the world.

I invite you to join us live on the website, or follow Health Systems Management in Kenya on Facebook and on Twitter with hashtag .

Watch videos from the (F. K. Musyimi, Maria Francisco, Mary Ngari, and Mugo Kibati):

Kate Steger, MA, MPH, is the communications specialist on the LMS/Kenya project, based in Nairobi.