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Citizen engagement in national health insurance in rural western Kenya - P4H Network

Citizen engagement in national health insurance in rural western Kenya

Kenyans know of health insurance but don’t trust it. Low awareness of benefits and poor communication hurt enrollment. Study in the Health Policy and Planning Journal suggests better explanations and clearer performance reporting to build trust.

Many Kenyans are aware of their national health insurance program, but low enrollment suggests a trust gap. This recent study in western Kenya highlights a lack of understanding about program benefits and concerns fueled by negative media reports.

This research explores how citizen engagement can improve the success of social health insurance programs. The study focused on rural, informal workers – a key demographic for such programs.

While most Kenyans surveyed recognized the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF), knowledge of its services and how to hold them accountable was limited. Only 11% of respondents were actually enrolled.

The study identified several key areas for improvement:

  • Limited awareness of benefits: Only a third of those surveyed understood the specific healthcare services covered by NHIF.
  • Negative media impacting trust: Unfavorable media reports about NHIF’s performance were found to erode trust and discourage enrollment.
  • Communication breakdown: Nearly all participants were unaware of how to provide feedback or raise complaints with NHIF.

The study recommends a multi-pronged approach to address these issues:

  • Clearer communication: Improved explanations of program benefits and how to access services are crucial.
  • Stronger complaint mechanisms: Creating accessible channels for feedback and addressing concerns is essential.
  • Transparency and performance reporting: Sharing program performance data publicly can build trust and demonstrate accountability.
  • Targeted messaging: Standardized and translated communication materials are needed to reach diverse audiences, especially rural populations.

By prioritizing citizen engagement and addressing these communication gaps, Kenya’s national health insurance program can build trust and achieve wider enrollment, particularly among those who stand to benefit most.

Beryl Maritim, Adam D Koon, Allan Kimaina, Jane Goudge, Citizen engagement in national health insurance in rural western Kenya , Oxford University Press: London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine