Impact of household shocks on access to healthcare services in Kenya: a propensity score matching analysis

P. Njagi*, W. Groot, J. Arsenijevic

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Objective This study examines the effects of household shocks on access to healthcare services in Kenya. Shocks are adverse events that lead to loss of household income and/or assets. Design and setting The study used data from the Kenya Integrated Household Budget Survey 2015/2016, a nationally representative cross-sectional survey. A propensity score matching approach was applied for the analysis. Participants The study sample included 16 297 individuals from households that had experienced shocks (intervention) and those that had not experienced shocks (control) within the last 12 months preceding the survey. Outcome measures The outcome of interest was access to healthcare services based on an individual's perceived need for health intervention. Results The results indicate that shocks reduce access to healthcare services when household members are confronted with an illness. We observed that multiple shocks in a household exacerbate the risk of not accessing healthcare services. Asset shocks had a significant negative effect on access to healthcare services, whereas the effect of income shocks was not statistically significant. This is presumably due to the smoothing out of income shocks through the sale of assets or borrowing. However, considering the time when the shock occurred, we observed mixed results that varied according to the type of shock. Conclusions The findings suggest that shocks can limit the capacity of households to invest in healthcare services, emphasising their vulnerability to risks and inability to cope with the consequences. These results provoke a debate on the causal pathway of household economic shocks and health-seeking behaviour. The results suggest a need for social protection programmes to integrate mechanisms that enable households to build resilience to shocks. A more viable approach would be to expedite universal health insurance to cushion households from forgoing needed healthcare when confronted with unanticipated risks.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere048189
Number of pages10
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2021


  • health economics
  • health policy
  • organisation of health services


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