Grameen Foundation, MicroEnsure, Penda Health and Clifford Chance Launch New Hea...

Oct 2014
Kenya, October, 06 2014 - The initiative, called the "Uzima Project", will focus on providing low-income people access to high quality health services and financing, along with a messaging and reminders service that encourages users to adopt healthy habits and practices.

Penda Health today launched a new initiative to a provide low-cost health insurance and health information to low-income Kenyans.  The initiative, called the "Uzima Project", will focus on providing low-income people access to high quality health services and financing, along with a messaging and reminders service that encourages users to adopt healthy habits and practices. It will be one of the first projects to develop an integrated package that provides low-cost healthcare financing and targeted health communications via mobile phones.

In Kenya, health insurance is mandatory for salaried workers and voluntary for others through the country's National Hospital Insurance Fund.  Nearly 75 percent of Kenyans are uninsured and must pay for health services themselves. A 2012 study by BMC Health Service Research found that the burden of out-of-pocket healthcare costs was highest among the poorest households, which spend a third of their budget on medical needs, compared to only 8% among the richest households. In addition, insurance for the low-income market typically only covers hospitalization costs. This limited access to comprehensive, affordable health insurance leaves low-income Kenyans highly vulnerable to the financial shocks associated with prolonged illnesses and accidents.

"Without affordable healthcare, millions of low-income Kenyans cannot access routine services and they also run the risk of minor health issues turning into catastrophes that send them deeper into poverty.  Through this collaboration with MicroEnsure, Penda Health and the global law firm Clifford Chance, we will develop a model for addressing this crisis and opportunity by enabling low-income households to take charge of their health care more than they have ever been able to do before," said Alex Counts, president and CEO of Grameen Foundation.

The project is part of Grameen Foundation's broader focus on integrating affordable health care and financial services through innovative uses of information technology.

Grameen Foundation, Penda Health and MicroEnsure will conduct user testing and research on a health financing solution that will be piloted through Penda Health's medical centers in and around Nairobi. Penda Health, using Grameen Foundation's human-centered design approach, will lead the creation of the healthy lifestyle messages that will be delivered to mobile phones via MOTECH, an open-source technology platform developed by Grameen Foundation. Health care workers will also receive reminders about patients' schedules to help them better manage their caseloads. Clifford Chance is providing financial support and pro bono assistance.

Peter Gross, Regional Director of MicroEnsure Africa, commented on the launch, "MicroEnsure exists to help the mass market address risk, and while health is at the top of the list, health insurance has the lowest penetration of any insurance product in Africa.  Through the Uzima project, we will invent new ways of addressing health risk, and roll out the solutions at scale.  We are proud to partner with Penda Health, Grameen Foundation and Clifford Chance to break new ground in this important area."

"One of patients' biggest challenges in accessing healthcare is that they often don't have cash when they fall ill. There is even a saying in Kiswahili that says sickness comes when your pockets are empty," said Stephanie Koczela, Penda's Cofounder and Managing Director. "The Uzima project will design a solution that allows Kenyan families to access quality care when they need it and will educate and encourage them to be proactive with their health. We couldn't be more excited to have great partners as we embark on tackling this problem." 

The Uzima project plans to reach 150,000 people with health insurance and information by the end of its second year and will serve as a model for expanding the initiative to other markets and influencing other health care initiatives globally.  

Source : InsuranceNewsNet

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