The Aga Khan Health Services (AKHS), an agency of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) and Expertise France today signed an agreement to enhance the quality of palliative care services in the Aga Khan Hospitals in both Kenya and Tanzania. The programme is being grant funded by the Agence Francaise de Developpement under which AKHS will receive 250,000 € to conduct specialised training for 4 doctors and 4 nurses – also known as “champions” through the Institut Curie.
The Euros 250,000 grant will go towards the implementation of a pilot palliative care training project for professionals from four hospitals of the Aga Khan Health Services in Kenya (Nairobi, Kisumu and Mombasa) and Tanzania (Dar Es Salaam). The programme will be implemented by Institut Curie, world renowned for their technical expertise in palliative and supportive care and their pragmatic, tailor-made trainings. Expertise France has been instrumental in working with the Aga Khan Health Services and Institut Curie to develop the overall implementation plan.
According to Dr Alexis Burnod, the project’s key expert and responsible for implementing Institut Curie’s training activities, « The spread of palliative care culture as a criterion of healthcare excellence towards patients and their families is a universal invitation. It is the result of the work of an entire team dedicated to promote a comprehensive care focused on the patient. This partnership programme with our Kenyan and Tanzanian counterparts reinforces this international humanist dynamic”.
“Our 15 years of experience creating partnerships and exchanges between hospitals in the North and the South have shown the value of giving healthcare professionals the opportunity to learn from one another – improving not only skills, but also the organisation and the continuum of care” added Mr Sebastien Mosneron Dupin, CEO of expertise France.
The partnership will bring Kenya and Tanzania closer to their goal of establishing palliative care services in the region by providing specialised clinical training as well as by enabling hospital professionals to establish designated palliative care units. Experts from Institut Curie and Expertise France will provide continual support and feedback throughout the process, resulting in invaluable information for advocacy, policy changes and scaling-up of the programme.
Palliative care in low-income countries
The quality of life of patients and their families facing life-limiting illness is a growing concern in low-income countries, particularly in Africa. Low income countries are disproportionately burdened with chronic diseases such as cancer, HIV-AIDS, kidney, heart and respiratory disease and face particular challenges in providing palliative care.
According to WHO and the World Palliative Care Alliance, a staggering 78% of the 19.2 million adults requiring palliative care are estimated to be in middle- and low-income countries. Often, health facilities in these countries lack pain medication, adequate hospital facilities, specially-trained medical staff, designated palliative care units and government or policy support. In particular, opioid pain-relief is very limited, and often prohibited from importation in a large number of African and Central/South Asian countries: an estimated 80% of the world’s population currently lacks access to opioids for pain relief at the end of one’s life.
“This partnership comes at a time when there is a large unmet need for palliative care within the health systems in Kenya and Tanzania,” said Dr. Gijs Walraven, Director of Health, signing the agreement on behalf of the Aga Khan Development Network. “There is an urgent need for education, and for advocacy with decision makers to take action and create enabling environments for palliative care at the national level.”
Improving palliative care in Kenya and Tanzania
The enhancement of palliative care in middle and low-income countries is a key priority for the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), working mainly in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Expertise France has also responded to the burden of chronic and non-transmissible diseases in its strategy for improving health in middle- and low-income countries. The Institut Curie is a leading French institution for cancer care and research and has developed an innovative, multidisciplinary and comprehensive approach to palliative care.