Lack of community awareness and asthma misdiagnosis a challenging issue.
Kenya has little prevalence data on respiratory diseases. The Kenya Association for the Prevention of Tuberculosis and Lung Diseases says children are the most affected by asthma. From 1995 to 2001, the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC) showed an increase in the prevalence of current asthma symptoms in 13-14 year old children from 10.4% to 13.8% (Eldoret) and17.1% to 18.0% (Nairobi).
Many Kenyans unknowingly suffer from asthma. There is a lack of community awareness and people underestimate the severity of asthma. Major public hospitals have spirometers for lung function tests, but they are underutilised, although the testing is inexpensive.
In Kenya, indoor pollution from using wood and charcoal for cooking and exposure to allergens are important factors in asthma.The Kenya Demographic Health Survey 2014 found 74% households use solid fuels, with more than half cooking inside. Animal and poultry-keeping by households in urban areas is on the increase and may be a contributor to asthma. Furry animals and mites in furniture stuffing can also trigger asthma.
Asthma diagnosis remains a challenging issue, with many cases, misdiagnosed and patients given the wrong medicine. In December 2015, GlaxoSmithKline with Amref Health Africa rolled out a programme to train Kenyan frontline healthcare workers on the diagnosis and management of diabetes and asthma in children and this programme is continuing.
Cost of medicines
The management of hypertension, diabetes and asthma in the public sector costs from US$26-$234 annually and US$418-$987 annually in the private sector. This is unaffordable for most Kenyans and as a result their asthma often goes untreated. The World Bank Kenya reported that 4 in 10 Kenyans live below the poverty line, earning less than US$1 a day (<US$365 annually). Despite the high cost of non-communicable disease treatment, the rate of health insurance coverage is low, significantly limiting the affordability of essential medicines for most of the population.