HelpAge International launches project to strengthen health systems for older people in Africa

The Governments of Kenya and Mozambique jointly with HelpAge International have launched a three-year project in Nairobi that will seek to make health systems in Africa more responsive to the health and care needs of older persons.

The Better Health for Older Persons in Africa (BHOPA) project is funded by the Maxwell Harvey Legacy Grant, supported by Age International. In Kenya, the project will be implemented in Dagoretti North and South Sub Counties of Nairobi County, while in Mozambique, it will be implemented in two provinces of Maputo and Gaza.

The project will seek to improve health and wellbeing among older women and men, and those with disabilities. It will achieve this by addressing challenges in both formal and informal health systems and health delivery services in both countries, strengthening them through health personnel development and training.

Mr Jude Otogo, Regional Health Programme coordinator at HelpAge International said: “We aim to make health systems more inclusive, responsive and accountable to the needs of older men and women, with a particular focus on those with chronic diseases and disabilities,”

“We also hope the project will generate robust evidence in order to support advocacy, shape policies and inform program approaches. These will inform scale-up and replication not just in the countries of implementation but also in Africa and globally.

According to NCDs coordinator for Nairobi County Dr. Victor Kibe, the county has limited health data on older people, hence the need to establish a health systems information system that will guide planning, decision making and response for older people’s health and care needs.

“It is a matter of concern that health services are delivered to older people but data and information is not properly documented hence not reported,” explained Dr. Kibe. “Healthcare staff are not trained in geriatric care and therefore lack the requisite knowledge and skill to address the health needs of older people.

Dr Prafulla Mishra, HelpAge International Regional Director said as a result of missing from the data, older people continue to be excluded from accessing health services but hopes that the work about beginning will redefine this.

Mrs. Susan Mutungi, Deputy Director, Social Development at the Ministry of Labour and Social Development lauded the project and said the government has worked on a number of policies to ensure a better environment for older people.

Dr. Muthoni Gichu, Ministry of Health, however, said the government has already initiated a move to train geriatric nursing at higher national diploma at the Kenya Medical Training College. “This will go a long way in ensuring that healthcare workers are equipped to handle the health needs of older people”, she said.

In addition, the ministry of health has sought to employ a number of approaches to help improve health services such as the use of community health workers, Home Based Care in undertaking active health activities.