The Road to True Universal Healthcare: Prioritizing Disabilities, Dignity, and Mental Health

Josephine M. Kamene ( Disability Inclusion Advocacy Champion Nguvu Collective and Founder, AbleRise Africa

By Josephine M. Kamene

In Kenya’s quest for Universal Healthcare, there’s a critical imperative that often remains in the shadows: disability-inclusive healthcare. The path to true universal health coverage must prioritize patient safety, rights, and dignity for all patients, including those with disabilities and mental health concerns. It’s time to break down the barriers and biases, fostering an inclusive system that recognizes every individual’s worth and needs.

Kenya’s pursuit of Universal Healthcare promises equal access to quality care, transcending financial constraints. However, universal doesn’t truly mean universal unless it encompasses those with disabilities, minorities, and marginalised. While progress has been made, it is not enough. We need to challenge the status quo and advocate for a healthcare system that ensures the dignity, rights, and safety of all patients.

Patients with disabilities are often subjected to a double injustice. They face not only their medical conditions but also a healthcare system that fails to accommodate their unique needs. To achieve true universal healthcare, we must establish mechanisms that uphold their rights and dignity, recognizing that every individual, regardless of their physical or cognitive differences, deserves respect and care tailored to their specific requirements.

The Kenya Universal Health Coverage Policy 2020 – 2030 touches on strengthening human resources for health. This process must include sensitization programs and training for healthcare professionals as pivotal components. The stigma surrounding mental health and disability should no longer be tolerated. Sensitization and training programs will serve to educate healthcare providers on how to handle patients with disabilities and mental health concerns effectively, fostering an environment of compassion, understanding, and inclusion.

Patient safety is not just a slogan but a commitment to ensuring that no one is harmed within the healthcare system. Negligence and ignorance can have dire consequences for patients with disabilities or mental health conditions. By prioritizing patient safety, we reduce the risk of harm, guaranteeing that healthcare is truly curative and not destructive.

Universal Healthcare is not merely about a system but about individuals, their lives, their dreams, and their dignity. People with disabilities are not asking for special treatment; they are demanding equal access and equal opportunities. They are fighting for their right to quality healthcare that recognizes their worth and unique needs.

In our pursuit of Universal Healthcare, we must listen to the voices of those who have long been silenced. By prioritizing disabilities, dignity, and mental health, we make a collective commitment to a healthcare system that genuinely cares for every citizen. Sensitization and training programs, coupled with a commitment to patient safety and rights, are the stepping stones to this future.

The road to true Universal Healthcare is long, but by embracing the diversity and unique needs of all patients, regardless of their disabilities or mental health conditions, we create a healthcare system that is truly universal. As we approach Mashujaa day celebrations whose theme this year will be “Access to Universal Health Care” anchored by Universal Health Coverage (UHC), It’s time for the Ministry of Health to walk the talk and lead the way in establishing a healthcare system that embraces every patient with dignity, respect, and care. This is not merely a need; it’s a moral obligation.

Op-Ed By:

Josephine M. Kamene 


Disability Inclusion Advocacy Champion

Nguvu Collective and Founder, AbleRise Africa


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