Health Care

Programs designed to improve health care options for street kids, families in Kenya

benson-kenyaBenson Kiragu, left, is leading Purdue programs in Kenya focused on providing education to street kids and treating cardiovascular and other diseases. (Image provided)
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Purdue pharmacy programs take innovative approach to saving lives

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Programs designed to provide much-needed health care services to rural families in Kenya are leading to a new generation of medical professionals and innovators – who are helping save the lives of those facing financial and mobility constraints.

Purdue University’s College of Pharmacy has a strong presence in Kenya, with multiple programs supporting the health care needs of families. Purdue is one of a handful of schools involved in the Academic Model Providing Access to Healthcare (AMPATH) program, which promotes and fosters a comprehensive approach to address the multifaceted needs of the western Kenyan population AMPATH serves.

This program has helped to permanently change the trajectory of the millions of citizens it serves. One such example is Benson Kiragu, who was one of the first Kenyans the AMPATH program reached. Benson’s experience with AMPATH serves as a microcosm of the impact AMPATH and consortium partners like Purdue can have in unlocking the potential of vulnerable populations. 

When Kiragu first met AMPATH staff, he was one of many street youth with an extensive list of health issues that impeded his desire to break the poverty cycle. He suffered from eye conditions, which could have easily led to permanent blindness, and life-threatening asthma that has nearly taken his life on several occasions.

 However, through the support of a team of faculty from Purdue and Indiana University, Kiragu has been able emerge from his humble beginnings to become the leader of several initiatives that now prevent other Kenyans from being trapped in the same poverty cycle he once found himself in.

Now, Kiragu is leading programs focused on providing education to street kids and treating cardiovascular and other diseases in the clinic and in homes.

“I know from my own experiences that working together as teams has helped to dramatically improve health care in Kenya,” Kiragu said. “Western Kenya now has some of the best access to health care in sub-Saharan Africa and this infrastructure is being used to help people of all ages and incomes.”

Through Kiragu’s training as a pharmacist, he has been able to become a part of the transformation in the roles that pharmacists play in Kenya through the support of the Purdue’s College of Pharmacy, Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital, and Moi University School of Medicine.

“Pharmacists are now seen as experts in providing health care support to patients,” Kiragu said. “We know how certain medications will likely impact patients and which ones are the most likely to improve their lives with minimal side effects.”

Kiragu said he was inspired by the work of Julie Everett, an associate professor of pharmacy practice from Purdue who was based full time in Kenya. Everett had suffered an unexpected health emergency and passed away in 2006 but was able to inspire individuals like Kiragu to follow in her footsteps and address the needs of the Kenyan population. 

“Kiragu was determined to become a pharmacist and carry on the great work Julie had started with the people of Kenya,” said Sonak Pastakia, who was hired in 2007 to lead Purdue’s presence in Kenya. “I continue to be thankful that programs like AMPATH and people like Julie have been able to inspire vulnerable youth like Benson to become the change agents the country needs to prevent additional generations of Kenyans from succumbing to treatable illnesses or being trapped in the poverty cycle.

“It is because of AMPATH’s years of collaborative efforts that I have the good fortune of working alongside people like Benson who have a deep firsthand knowledge of the challenges Kenyans face and then work tirelessly to overcome them.”

Pastakia and his team in Kenya have worked with the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization to patent some of their technologies and approaches. They are looking for additional partners as they work to take their proven approaches and expertise to other parts of the world. For more information on licensing a Purdue innovation, contact the Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization at otcip@prf.org.

About Purdue Research Foundation

The Purdue Research Foundation is a private, nonprofit foundation created to advance the mission of Purdue University. Established in 1930, the foundation accepts gifts; administers trusts; funds scholarships and grants; acquires property; protects Purdue’s intellectual property; and promotes entrepreneurial activities on behalf of Purdue. The foundation manages the Purdue Foundry, Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization, Purdue Research Park and Purdue Technology Centers. The foundation received the 2019 Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities Award for Place from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities.

Writer: Chris Adam, 765-588-3341, cladam@prf.org 

Sources:
Benson Kiragu, krgbenson@gmail.com

Sonak Pastakia, spastaki@gmail.com

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