Framing universal health coverage in Kenya: An interpretive analysis of the 2004 Bill on National Social Health Insurance

Adam D. Koon, Benjamin Hawkins, Susannah H. Mayhew

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In 2004, President Mwai Kibaki of Kenya refused to sign a popular Bill on National Social Health Insurance into law. Drawing on innovations in framing theory, this research provides a social explanation for this decision. In addition to document review, this study involved interpretive analysis of transcripts from 50 semi-structured interviews with leading actors involved in the health financing policy process in Kenya, 2014-15. The frame-critical analysis focused on how actors engaged in (1) sensemaking, (2) naming, which includes selecting and categorizing and (3) storytelling. We demonstrated that actors' abilities to make sense of the Bill were largely influenced by their own understandings of the finer features of the Bill and the array of interest groups privy to the debate. This was reinforced by a process of naming, which selects and categorizes aspects of the Bill, including the public persona of its primary sponsor, its affordability, sustainability, technical dimensions and linkages to notions of economic liberalism. Actors used these understandings and names to tell stories of ideational warfare, which involved narrative accounts of policy resistance and betrayal. This analysis illustrates the difficulty in enacting sweeping reform measures and thus provides a basis for understanding incrementalism in Kenyan health policy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1376-1384
Number of pages9
JournalHealth policy and planning
Issue number10
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020


  • Health policy
  • Kenya
  • framing
  • policy analysis
  • universal health coverage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy


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