JKUAT to Host National Assistive Technology Centre of Excellence

Team members from MOH and JKUAT are shown the proposed site for the construction of the Centre.

The Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) is set to host the National Assistive Technology Centre of Excellence.

The Centre, a first of its kind in the country and the region, will revolutionize the healthcare system in the country, catering to people with disabilities, noncommunicable diseases, mental health conditions, gradual functional decline, among others.

Actualized through a strong collaboration between the University, Ministry of Health (MOH), and the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centre is anchored on the premise of Universal Health Coverage (UHC), and informed by the global shortage of strong assistive technology network, especially in developing countries.

Speaking during a MOH fact-finding mission to JKUAT, Thursday 28th October, 2021, Dr. Julius Ogato observed that the Centre will be a crucial step in strengthening Kenya’s health system, and its transformation to respond to current needs and challenges.

“Of all people who need assistive technology, only one in ten is able to access the same. This is as a result of ignorance, and also mainly because these technologies are expensive and out of reach for most people.

The Centre will tackle this, from manufacturing of these technologies, creating awareness about assistive technology and training experts in this field,” he said.

Dr. Ogato makes a point during the meeting. Amb. Maalim and Prof. Ngumi follow keenly.

Dr. Ogato, who led the MOH delegation on behalf of the Director General for Health, further pointed out the crucial areas the Ministry of Health will be plugging into through the Centre to better the health system in the country.

These include; Public Health Management, Legal foundation and framework for UHC, Noncommunicable Diseases Management, Health System Performance and Accountability, and Global Health Security.

Assistive technology, according to WHO, is an umbrella term covering the systems and services related to the delivery of assistive products and services. These products maintain or improve an individual’s functioning and independence, thereby promoting their well-being. Hearing aids, wheelchairs, communication aids, spectacles, prostheses, pill organizers and memory aids are examples of assistive products.

The technologies enable people to live healthy, productive, independent, and dignified lives, and to participate in education, work and civic life. Most importantly, it reduces the need for formal health and support services, long-term care and the work of caregivers.

WHO estimates that globally, more than 1 billion people need one or more assistive products. With an ageing global population and a rise in noncommunicable diseases, it further estimates that more than 2 billion people will need at least one assistive product by 2030, with many older people needing two or more.

The National Assistive Technology Centre of Excellence will plug into this need, spearheading the formulation of a national assistive technology policy or programme, making UHC a reality, and contributing significantly to the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, ratified by 177 countries, Kenya included.

In his remarks during the Thursday October 28, 2021 meeting, the JKUAT Chair of Council, Amb. Mahboub Maalim assured the project task force of the unequivocal support from the University, thanking them for making the project a reality, and for its prompt take off.

Amb. Maalim makes his remarks during the meeting.

“Beyond the health component, this project will contribute immensely to the economic development of the country. And beyond our borders, the Centre of Excellence will be of regional strategic importance, both health-wise, economically, and diplomatically. As a University of Research and Innovation, the Centre couldn’t have found a better home,” he added.

The Vice Chancellor, Prof. Victoria Wambui Ngumi, termed the project a significant milestone for the University, and a clear testament that the strides that have been made by the College of Health Sciences in Training, Research, Innovation, Technology Transfer, as well as Capacity Building have been spot on.

“The College’s Department of Rehabilitative Sciences, for instance, was the first of its kind in the country to offer Physiotherapy. We are also currently the only institution offering PhD in that field.”

The creation of the Rehabilitative Sciences Department, the Vice Chancellor added, “was informed by a comprehensive needs assessment that revealed a rapid increase in the number of persons with disabilities, a growing number of the ageing population, persons with chronic conditions, malnutrition, injuries, among others. The vision of the Ministry of Health in regards to Assistive Technology is therefore a dream we share, and happy to partner towards its realization.”

Prof. Ngumi further noted that the establishment of the Centre of Excellence will add not one, but several arrows to JKUAT’s quiver of accolades as a University that offers sustainable solutions to global challenges.

The project taskforce was given a guided tour of the proposed site for the Centre, which will occupy 10 acres of land.  A technical team from MOH and WHO is expected to make a subsequent visit soon.

The JKUAT and MOH team in a commemorative photo after the deliberations.

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