Health inequity has mainly been linked to differences in economic status, with the poor facing greater challenges accessing healthcare than the less poor. To extend financial coverage to the poor and vulnerable, Kenya has therefore implemented several pro-poor health policy reforms. However, other social determinants of health such as gender and disability also influence health status and access to care. This study employed an intersectional approach to explore how gender disability and poverty interact to influence how poor women in Kenya benefit from pro-poor financing policies that target them.
We applied a qualitative cross-sectional study approach in two purposively selected counties in Kenya. We collected data using in-depth interviews with women with disabilities living in poverty who were beneficiaries of the health insurance subsidy programme and those in the lowest wealth quintiles residing in the health and demographic surveillance system. We analyzed data using a thematic approach drawing from the study’s conceptual framework.
Women with disabilities living in poverty often opted to forgo seeking free healthcare services because of their roles as the primary household providers and caregivers. Due to limited mobility, they needed someone to accompany them to health facilities, leading to greater transport costs. The absence of someone to accompany them and unaffordability of the high transport costs, for example, made some women forgo seeking antenatal and skilled delivery services despite the existence of a free maternity programme. The layout and equipment at health facilities offering care under pro-poor health financing policies were disability-unfriendly. The latter in addition to negative healthcare worker attitudes towards women with disabilities discouraged them from seeking care. Negative stereotypes against women with disabilities in the society led to their exclusion from public participation forums thereby limiting their awareness about health services.
Intersections of gender, poverty, and disability influenced the experiences of women with disabilities living in poverty with pro-poor health financing policies in Kenya. Addressing the healthcare access barriers they face could entail ensuring availability of disability-friendly health facilities and public transport systems, building cultural competence in health service delivery, and empowering them to engage in public participation.