Reflecting on Kenya


Helene Gayle, president and CEO of CARE, reflects on her trip to Kenya.

During the past few days we've learned a lot, visited various sites, dividing into three groups going to communities and through urban areas.

When reflecting on visits to countries like Kenya, I'm always impressed and encouraged by the enthusiasm of the people I've met along the way. In the case of the recent Kenya Learning Tours trip, it gave me great hope to witness health workers, mothers, people with HIV and youth express their commitment to solve health problems and work to overcome extreme poverty. Their names, faces and powerful stories will always be with me to drive my work.

As co-chair of the CSIS Commission on Smart Global Health Policy with Admiral Bill Fallon, we hosted this trip to Kenya to learn and bring back messages to U.S. policy makers on global health solutions. Much can be drawn from Kenya to be applied more broadly as we look to enhance awareness and commitment to health issues around the world. We are seeing improvements but we aren't where we should be. Clearly, there's no quick nor easy fix to get there.

The good news is we know the kinds of things that make health systems work from procurement of medicines to training health workers to good policies that make efforts sustainable. And, as more evidence-based data is collected and analyzed, it will help drive priorities. Moving forward, as we look to solve health problems and increase access to health services, it's important to not solely think about the technical interventions. Donor integration and coordination is also extremely critical. Increased flexibility of investments will be a major driver of success. Ultimately, our goal is to allow governments and communities to use this platform to take on more of an ownership role and make it sustainable. The bottom line is that we need to get this strategy right and efforts should not be about political advantage but rather on the health and well-being of the people, like the one's I've met in Kenya and in so many other developing countries I've visited over the years.

A woman in Siaya District (Nyanza Province), Kenya. (2009 Allen Clinton/CARE)