His Excellency President Mwai Kibaki of Kenya inaugurated the Aga Khan University Hospital’s Heart and Cancer Centre today, in the presence of His Highness the Aga Khan, Chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN).
The US$ 50 million facility brings international standards of patient care and cardiology and oncology treatment to Kenya, positioning the University Hospital as a hub in an integrated AKDN health system in East Africa. It also represents a significant expansion for the Aga Khan University’s Faculty of Health Sciences in the region.
“We see our medical programmes here in Nairobi as nodes in a broad, regional health care network, reaching from Arusha to Kampala, from Nyeri to Mtwara and from Kigali to Malindi. Our goal is an integrated, best practice regional health system – providing a continuum of services from preventive and primary care to tertiary hospital-based care,” said the Aga Khan, speaking at the inauguration ceremony.
The Centre is part of the Aga Khan University’s long term development plans for its Faculty of Health Sciences, which includes the expansion of the Nairobi University Hospital to a 600-bed tertiary care facility and the establishment of an Undergraduate Medical Education Programme, an Undergraduate Nursing Programme and a School of Allied Health Professionals.
Beyond the medical field, the University is planning a new campus in Arusha to house a Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and the expansion of its Institute for Educational Development in Dar-es Salaam. New graduate schools are envisioned in the fields of Management, Leisure and Tourism, Law, Government and Public Policy, and Economic Growth, as well as a new Graduate School of Media and Communications, whose foundation ceremony is expected to take place later this week.
A Response to Emerging Trends in Health
An equally ambitious agenda for health-related programmes envisions an integrated regional health system for East Africa. Drawing on best practices, the system will seek to address fast-growing health problems that are emerging due to lifestyle changes in the developing world.
According to the World Health Organisation, 70 per cent of new cancers in the next 15 years will occur in developing countries, affecting younger working-age populations. Developing countries will therefore face a growing burden of non-communicable diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease alongside existing infectious diseases.
“In Kenya alone, some 80,000 new cancer cases are diagnosed each year, with an unusually high number among young people,” noted the Aga Khan. “The new Centre will be ideally positioned to address such issues,” he said, noting that it would offer specialised training in cardiology and oncology that is not currently available in East Africa.
Recognising the high cost of quality health care, the Aga Khan University Hospital also provides a subsidy to patients for whom the cost would otherwise be prohibitive.
“The Aga Khan University Hospital, through its Patient Welfare Programme, provides an average subsidy of 50 per cent to those patients who are unable to afford their care,” said the Aga Khan. He went on to point out that creative combinations of “endowment funding, credit and insurance offerings” would be required in the future to address the economics of health care.
International support for global standards
The Heart and Cancer Centre was established at a cost of over US$ 50 million with support from the Government of France, which provided US$ 35 million of financing through the Agence Française de Développement.
“This will be a bracing challenge, involving not only the University and the Hospital but also a wide array of cooperating partners, governments, schools and medical institutions,” said the Aga Khan, naming the University of Alberta and the University of California at San Francisco among the supporting partners.
Expressing his gratitude, the Aga Khan said that “without this international support, from France and others, including many individual donors, our solidly founded initiatives for the future would be but slender dreams”.
The inauguration ceremony was attended by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Honourable Uhuru Kenyatta, the Minister for Medical Services, Honourable Professor Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o, the Chief Executive Officer of Agence Française de Développement, Mr Zerah, and various other government dignitaries and the Board of Trustees of the Aga Khan University.