Access to quality emergency services is an essential component of the human right to health, but barriers to emergency care are found throughout Africa and the wider world. Data to support the development of emergency care are essential to improve access to care and further infrastructure development. We undertook this study to understand the community’s emergency care needs and the barriers they face when trying to access care and to engage community members in developing high impact solutions to expand access to essential emergency services.
To accomplish this, we used a qualitative research methodology to conduct 59 focus groups with 528 total Kenyan community member participants. Data were coded, aggregated, and analysed using the content analysis approach. Participants were uniformly selected from all eight of the historical Kenyan provinces (Central, Coast, Eastern, Nairobi, North Eastern, Nyanza, Rift Valley, and Western), with equal rural and urban community representation.
We found that socioeconomic and cultural factors play a major role both in seeking and reaching emergency care. Community members in Kenya experience a wide range of medical emergencies and seem to understand their time-critical nature. They rely on one another for assistance in the face of substantial barriers to care: a lack of a structured system, resources, transportation, trained healthcare providers, and initial care on scene.
The results of this study indicate the need for specific interventions to reduce barriers to access essential emergency services in Kenya. Access to emergency care can be improved by encouraging recognition and initial treatment of emergent illness in the community, strengthening the prehospital care system, improving emergency care delivery at health facilities, nd creating new policies at both county and national levels.