Influence of health insurance status on childhood cancer treatment outcomes in Kenya

Gilbert Olbara, H. A. Martijn, F. Njuguna, S. Langat, S. Martin, J. Skiles, T. Vik, G. J.L. Kaspers, S. Mostert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Survival of childhood cancer in high-income countries is approximately 80%, whereas in low-income countries, it is less than 10%. Limited access to health insurance in low-income settings may contribute to poor survival rates. This study evaluates the influence of health insurance status on childhood cancer treatment in a Kenyan academic hospital. Methods: This was a retrospective study. All children diagnosed with a malignancy from 2010 until 2012 were included. Data on treatment outcomes and health insurance status at diagnosis were abstracted from patient charts. Results: Of 280 patients, 34% abandoned treatment, 19% died, and 18% had progressive or relapsed disease resulting in 29% event-free survival. The majority of patients (65%) did not have health insurance at diagnosis. Treatment results differed significantly between patients with different health insurance status at diagnosis; 37% of uninsured versus 28% of insured patients abandoned treatment, and 24% of uninsured versus 37% of insured patients had event-free survival. The event-free survival estimate was significantly higher for patients with health insurance at diagnosis compared with those without (P = 0.004). Of patients without health insurance at diagnosis, 77% enrolled during treatment. Among those patients who later enrolled in health insurance, frequency of progressive or relapsed disease and deaths was significantly lower (P = 0.013, P < 0.001, respectively), while the event-free survival estimate was significantly higher (P < 0.001) compared with those who never enrolled. Conclusion: Childhood cancer event-free survival was 29% at a Kenyan hospital. Children without health insurance had significant lower chance of event-free survival. Childhood cancer treatment outcomes could be ameliorated by strategies that prevent treatment abandonment and improve access to health insurance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)917-924
Number of pages8
JournalSupportive Care in Cancer
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2020


  • Childhood cancer
  • Health insurance
  • Low-income country
  • Universal health coverage


Dive into the research topics of 'Influence of health insurance status on childhood cancer treatment outcomes in Kenya'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this