Infections have had a compelling role in human history with one of the predominance of infectious diseases being the unpredictable nature they tend towards, and the potential for an explosive effect. Experiences from pandemics such as the 2009 H1N1 influenza presented a public health emergency but most importantly exposed deficiencies and vulnerabilities in not only the global approach to the outbreak, but also the national and local public health capacities.
Most of the unprecedented experiences in epidemic history have largely been due to the incapability of local health facilities to mount any form of response due to lack of resources, limitations in scientific knowledge, poor health systems, and challenges in communication between local health facilities. The huge challenge behind poor response to epidemics is a weakened or a dichotomized primary health care (PHC) system RockHealth Integrated Care Organization (RICO) stepped into this niche 3 years ago with the aim to make robust the primary health care and response to tropical disease epidemics.
The model was designed to collect epidemiological data from extremely remote and marginalized areas in some counties in Kenya and further provide insight as well as intelligence towards improving or re-operationalizing the health care facilities in these areas. This model confers a paradigm shift from assumption to an evidence-based approach to enabling these facilities respond to prevalent diseases with a potential of an outbreak.
RICO targets communities which due to reasons being limitations in road network coverage, limited healthcare facilities and low education opportunities and thus low literacy levels, have poor primary healthcare approaches. Most of these areas including Baringo, Kajiado and Migori have had a history of an outbreak and this menace still goes on to date.
Apart from this, RICO screens for non-communicable diseases in areas with high prevalence of the same including diabetes, hypertension and cancer while making referrals of major clinical findings to partner healthcare facilities. To this far, RICO has been able to provide medical services to areas with limited accessibility such as in Tiaty (Baringo), Getambwega (Migori County), Siabai Makonge (Migori County), Ilbisil (Kajiado County) and Oloirien (Kajiado County) which are areas afflicted by tropical infectious diseases, a total of 13,740 clinical cases being managed in the field hospitals RICO sets up to collect its data.
Success in Rotu, Baringo County was epitomized by the re-operationalization of the Rotu Community Health Unit that during RICO’s response to the 2017 malaria epidemic in the area had not been operational for a period of 6 months. Through conversations on how RICO would support either directly through facilitation of some of its operational requirements or indirectly by influencing collaborations from the county government, the health unit was re-opened and has been operational since. RICO has been continuously visiting the area to make follow-up on prevalence of diseases in the area as well as provide for pharmaceutical and operational needs.
In addition to tackling primary healthcare challenges in such areas, RICO also partners with well-wishers to respond to drought and famine through its food programme and provide relief food for the period of time in order to reduce cases of moderate to severe malnutrition. In Baringo County, RICO has supported 7 villages while in Kajiado County, 5 villages with food that was able to sustain them for about a month during the drought season.
The model and the impact it has had in these communities has received recognition from Lord Howell of Guildford, Royal Commonwealth Society, London, England as well as the Foundation of Advanced International Medical Education and Research , Limerick, Ireland for its contribution to improving community health and the livelihoods of Kenyans. The model has been published in the 50th Edition of the Social Innovations Journal.