Chepkirui Hildah Koech is a registered nurse and midwife with Kericho County Government. She strongly believes that investment in reproductive health accelerates the demographic dividend and development, and is a tireless advocate for health equity. During her work as a community nurse, she has recognized the barriers presented by teenage pregnancy to girls attaining their full potential and has engaged policymakers and youth in the reproductive health agenda. Through the Centre for Community Empowerment and Development initiative and other partners, she mobilized girls and young women around the issue of sexual and reproductive health. As a youth governor of Kericho, Kenya, she led a team to review the 1997 Kenyan youth policy and to include comprehensive and youth-friendly reproductive health. She also provided health inputs in the development of the 2018/2022 Kericho County Integrated Development Plan. In recognition of her outstanding leadership, she has been named by the Bill & Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health and John Hopkins University as one of 120 under 40 family planning leaders and is a recipient of the UK Chevening award to pursue an MSc in health economics and policy.
“Future pandemic responses cannot be effective without nurses’ inputs from research. Their experiences and research are critical in policy agenda setting, planning, implementation, and evaluation.” – Chepkirui Hildah Koech
In future, Koech plans to continuously innovate, upscale and support novel approaches that address health inequalities, including advancing sustainable approaches that promote reproductive health and enable the poorest youth to live dignified, healthy and productive lives. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Koech has adapted to new ways of working and has helped to manage anxiety and mental health pressures created by the pandemic among health professionals and the general population. She notes the crucial role of nurses in disseminating information beyond the walls of healthcare settings to reduce infection rates and flatten the infection curve. She is also working with graduate students to evaluate the medical curriculum and how it prepares health professionals in handling emerging pandemics.