Palliative care is more than hospice; it optimizes symptom management, nurtures spiritual support, and provides psychosocial services for individuals with life-threatening illnesses. The importance of symptom management is increasingly recognized worldwide; however, the need in low-income countries such as Kenya is becoming more pressing. Not only are palliative care medications scarce, but also there is a lack of specialty care providers in the country.
It is estimated that the death rate from cancer in the US is 40% compared to 79% in eastern Africa. Poor prognosis for many patients is worsened by limited access to pain management. A 2010 article from the Human Rights Watch reported morphine availability in only 7 of the 250 Kenyan public hospitals and the morphine available was only sufficient enough to treat a mere 1,500 patients. Our goal is to treat patients with life limiting illness in the hospital or at home to maximize quality of life.
In order to provide more patients with palliative care, AMPATH aims to develop novel ways to minimize pain and suffering, given the limited resources within western Kenya. In addition, AMPATH is focusing on training more health care professionals in symptom management and compassionate communication to be able to help patients and their families through the difficult decisions that arise when faced with a terminal diagnosis. Our current focus is developing novel hospice care to remote areas.
Building the AMPATH Palliative Care Program will to optimize symptom management and provide comfort and psychosocial services for more individuals in western Kenya facing life-threatening illnesses such as cancer and HIV. AMPATH's goal is to provide access to health care for the entire population served, leaving no one behind.