Nutrition key in achieving universal health coverage

Monday, January 27th, 2020 00:00 |
Nutrition. Photo/Courtesy

Christine Nderitu

In December 2018, Kenya started its journey to universal health coverage (UHC) with the kick off of UHC piloting in four counties: Kisumu, Machakos, Nyeri and Isiolo. 

UHC is a policy priority intended to ensure all people can obtain the health services they need- promotion, prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and palliation – that are of sufficient quality, without exposing them to financial hardship, according to the World Health Organisation. 

Simply put, you can access quality health services without being rendered poor by the cost of accessing health care.

Now this can be best achieved using the primary health care approach and in particular investing in preventive measures and the cheaper, cost effective interventions such as nutrition interventions.

Not only is UHC critical in ending malnutrition, but without nutrition, UHC will not be achieved. 

See, malnutrition in any of it forms affects the health and well-being, physical and cognitive development, and the productivity of people, consequently impacting the overall economic development of countries (WHO, 2019).

Good nutrition on the other hand promotes growth and development, prevents illness, fastens recovery from illness, and improves survival, allowing people to reach their full potential (WHO, 2019). 

In an era where the double burden of malnutrition is on the rise, nutrition interventions will not only save costs, but also reach the poorest, most vulnerable and marginalized populations, who are also disproportionately affected by poor health and poor access to health care due to financial limitations. 

Nutrition interventions are also among the interventions with the highest return on investments- 1$ investment yields on average 16$ in return- and that save the most lives (Global Nutrition Report, 2018).

The health system therefore has a crucial role of ensuring all people, and especially the most vulnerable have access to essential nutrition interventions such as breastfeeding, dietary counselling, management of malnutrition, supplementation as well as nutrition education.

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