Knowledge and Perceptions Regarding Palliative Care Among Religious Leaders in Uasin Gishu County, Kenya: Survey and Focus Group Analysis
Spirituality and religion are at the core of Kenyan life. Pastoral leaders play a key role in shaping the individual and community’s response to living with chronic and life-threatening illnesses. Involvement of religious leaders would therefore be critical in advocacy and education efforts in palliative care (PC) to address the needs of this population. The goal of this study was to evaluate the knowledge and perceptions of religious leaders in Western Kenya regarding PC. This was a mixed-methods study with 86 religious leaders utilizing a 25-question survey followed by 5-person focus group discussions. Eighty-one percent of participants agreed that pastors should encourage members with life-threatening illnesses to talk about death and dying. However, almost a third of participants (29%) also agreed with the statement that full use of PC can hasten death. The pastors underscored challenges in end-of-life spiritual preparation as well as the importance of traditional beliefs in shaping cultural norms. Pastors supported the need for community-based PC education and additional training in PC for religious leaders. The results of this study confirm the dominant role of religion and spirituality in PC in Kenya. This dominant role in shaping PC is tied closely to Kenyan attitudes and norms surrounding death and dying.