They say health is wealth; – which simply means our good health is our real wealth. Good health enables us to face the challenges of life. If we are not in a good state of physical, mental and social well-being, we will not be able to create wealth and the wealth we have will not mean much to us.
We spoke to Dr. Timothy Kingondu, a physician specializing in infectious diseases on a wide array of issues pertaining to our health.
Q: What, in your view, ails Kenya’s health sector today?
A: The biggest problem affecting our health sector has to do with resource allocation, or should I say, misallocation. We have a sizeable budget allocated to health, but the money is not always spent on priority areas, leading to a lot of wastage and less than desired end results.
Q: So where do you think more resources should be channeled in order to ensure a healthy and wealthy Kenyan population?
A: I have four main points in that regard and I think the first and most important is the provision of
Clean water for all; – it will not matter how many hospitals we build, so long as a majority of the population does not access clean drinking water, which does go a long in curbing the spread of diseases.
Secondly, I think we should ensure proper nutrition –a person exposed to poor nutrition has a very low immune system hence stands a higher chance of falling sick
The there’s health education; – it’s time people took responsibility of their own health, being in control over their own lives, this way we will be able to stop most of these chronic diseases
And finally, there is need to strengthen government regulations; – the Government needs to strengthen public health policies so as to ensure harmful or suspect quality products do not find their way into the market.
Q: Specifically, given changes in society, what challenges do you think lifestyle diseases pose?
A: No, personally I don’t think lifestyle diseases pose the biggest threat but infectious diseases do.
For example in children you find diseases like diarrhea, pneumonia, typhoid and cholera and in
trying to combat infectious diseases, water quality is the first thing.
I believe poor quality water is responsible for the spread of most of these diseases we are facing including major ones like cancer. If the water we consume daily has impurities there are high chances that people will end up with cancer at their old age, and even before cancer kills you, you will die of
Diarrhea so it important to take into consideration the quality of the water we consume.
Q: Take us through some of the major diseases affecting Kenyans today, starting with HIV/Aids, what do you have to say concerning the HIV menace?
A: I think the HIV menace is not gone and it is driving cancer in our population because you find
that illness like cervical cancer are on the increase because of HIV infections.
We should also not focus on treatment alone as the way to get rid of HIV but also consider other
Preventative measures like health education, even before treatment comes into the
picture. Young people should be educated on the importance of abstinence and condom use during sexual contact as some of the ways of ensuring they do not contract HIV.
Q: The prevalence of cervical cancer, as you have said is on the increase, why is this so?
A: Cervical cancer is mainly caused by HPV which is a sexually transmitted infection, especially if
One are infected with HPV 16 and 18 which is responsible for 70% of all cancer cases, but this is
not to mean that we are doomed because WHO is actually advising and advocating for young
girls to get vaccinated against HPV, but this should happen before sexual contact for it to be
Q: Hepatitis B is also on the rise….
A: Well, first of all 6% of Kenyans have it, and it is a liver infection. It can either be caused by a
virus or intake of substances like alcohol. Hepatitis that is viral is either hepatitis B or C which is the worst, Hepatitis B is transmitted through body fluids such as saliva, semen, sweat, and even water… it severely affects the liver causing inflammation and when it gets to the chronic stage it leads to liver cirrhosis. Some of the symptoms of hepatitis are
– Weakness of the joints
– Yellow eyes and in severe conditions, swollen face and abdomen
For chemical hepatitis during treatment one will be advised to withdraw from alcohol as for the
Viral, one yes there is treatment but it really takes a long time to heal.
Q: Is malaria still one of biggest killer diseases in the country?
A: Yes, it is still a major killer disease but there have been interventions like distribution of mosquito nets and drugs to mitigate its risks
Q: Earlier on, you made reference to the prevalence of low quality, sometimes even dangerous products in the market….how can this be contained?
A: I’m not saying that Kenyans are killing themselves because of greed but continued production of
Low-quality foods and other products is increasing the clinical burden. The regulatory authorities have
to realize that if you pass down products of low quality they will be responsible for diseases
spreading and they, themselves will get sick in the process.
Q: You have stated that infectious diseases pose a greater risk than lifestyle diseases…please elaborate
A: I think that people are, so to speak planting these lifestyle diseases on themselves. They are found mostly in urban areas, primarily because people in rural Kenya consume natural food hence they are healthy, so you will find someone living in Turkana very healthy and free from diseases like hypertension but if brought to the urban in 5 years they might suffer from it due to a change in environment.
Q: Your parting shot, matters health?
A: I think that, instead of waiting for people to get sick and hospitalized, we should take the initiative of going to meet them, in their places of residence, examine factors which may lead to them contracting diseases and address these factors …. Remember, prevention is better that cure!