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February 16, 2019

Elites should not forget they too need a functioning health system

Shameful: Kenyans have very unreasonable driving habits.
Shameful: Kenyans have very unreasonable driving habits.

As the city of Nairobi grows so does the traffic. Every day, thousands go to bed knowing that tomorrow you have to wake up another few minutes earlier to beat the traffic.

The result is as expected, traffic starts even earlier because those who wake up earlier than they feel they should, feel entitled to get to where they are going at a certain speed, irrespective of who got there before them.

So the earlier people wake up the more overlapping goes on, especially by government of Kenya vehicles who now seem to be above the law.

It is rare to have a GK vehicle calmly in traffic waiting its turn. The thing we are all trying to save by our unreasonable driving habits is time.

Which considering that we all know that government moves so slowly in providing services, it is ironic that it is government officials who seem to lack time so much.

Perhaps they are not rushing to provide services to the citizens? Maybe there is something else that they are engaged in that makes them so busy? What could it be? This is why the latest fad in public service circles, the lifestyle audit, would make interesting reading if it were to happen in a useful manner.

The focus undoubtedly will be on money, how much someone has versus how much they ought to have. The problem with that narrow focus is that it means we forget that there are some things that money cannot buy.

 Money was originally invented as an accounting tool, used to estimate the value of goods and possessions. Over time many have forgotten the original purpose and made the pursuit of money a goal in itself; like owning many rulers but having no idea of how to measure or what to measure. So some people spend their time getting money to bribe their way to the top, assuming that hard work is for the idiots.

However behind his back, the person with a lot of money ill acquired will not be spoken of well, because respect cannot be bought but has to be earned. Since money attracts sycophants, they are always surrounded by people, some of whom look and talk like friends.

Yet a good friend is a blessing; everyone wants a special person in their lives, to be surrounded by people who support them not for money but because they love, respect and believe in that person. Having people who care and are concerned with your well being is beyond money.

Having good health relies a lot on the values that you hold, beyond the genetics that are handed at birth. Lifestyle choices influences health outcomes to a great degree.

Certainly when people do fall ill they need money to pay for healthcare. The question is how they pay for that healthcare.

 In a socially poor society everyone is left on their own to sort our their own bills. Paying out of pocket, that is at the point of service, is a dangerous way to pay for healthcare.

Not only can the provider not invest in the necessary services, they do not know if and when you will pay, but even the richest person may not have a coin in their pocket at the very moment when they need it.

So systems that rely on out of pocket payments, like Kenya’s health system, both private and public, are just not good. They are under invested and under resourced.

The solution is to pool money together and give the health system the money to invest and prepare for all to access services.

The problem is that we have a leadership that believes they have an entitlement to not be ordinary.

Because they have resources that they do not have to account for, impunity is the word used, they each believe that they can accumulate enough individually that they will be exempt from the laws of society.

Yet at some point each person will fall sick, likely from a disease that will require not just money but family, friends and even strangers to chip in and contribute something.

A high number of our maternal and newborn deaths occur because the mother bleeds to death during childbirth. Cancer depletes the body and often the person is low on blood.

Road accident crash victims the loss of blood is obvious and acute. All these people require blood transfusion to survive.

One might imagine that since I have money I can simply pay that fellow to give me a pint of his blood. But multiple studies show that persons who sell their blood are often unhealthier than those who volunteer to donate blood.

Having hospitals equipped with enough blood requires a society where people give to each other, voluntarily; where everyone respects and recognises the worth of the other person.

Yet every morning at the start of the day there is evidence that the very people we put in charge of managing that society, start by making themselves special, an elite.

They imagine that they will never need a functioning health system. What they need to remember is that human blood is precious and cannot be manufactured outside of the body. Saving lives requires that we build one cohesive society.

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