Partnership key to improving healthcare in Vietnam

May 22, 2024 | 16:55
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Stakeholders are joining Vietnam’s efforts in improving healthcare accessibility, and sustainably developing the sector. Nguyen Thi An, country director of HealthBridge, spoke with VIR’s Tung Anh about how businesses can make a contribution.

Vietnam is making efforts to improve the health system, thus contributing to better taking care of people. What is the role of stakeholders in this?

Partnership key to improving healthcare in Vietnam
Nguyen Thi An, country director of HealthBridge

All stakeholders have their own role. They should work on the principle of doing whatever is beneficial for people and improving their health status.

At Healthbridge, we provide information, scientific evidence, and international experience so that policymakers and people can be aware of and reduce health risk factors, and avoid mistakes for countries during the implementation.

For example, regarding e-cigarettes, as there is a high prevalence of children and young people using e-cigarettes, we share information and scientific evidence on the harmful effects of these products, as well as best practices and lessons learnt from other countries so that Vietnam can consider and make informed decisions.

We work with government agencies to develop relevant technical guidelines to follow on enhancing the protection, care, and improvement of people’s health, which focuses on building an effective health system. We are willing to contribute to the healthcare sector in this.

What lessons should Vietnam learn from other countries in improving the health system?

Some countries in the region have succeeded in developing their healthcare systems, thus increasing healthcare accessibility and quality.

One of the factors for success is to have ample and sustainable funding for preventive health. We cannot realise any good policies without money.

In Thailand, the country does it very well because it has a sustainable and large budget for prevention. This is taken from the taxes imposed on products harmful to people’s health for the Thai Health Fund.

It is similar in the Philippines, which takes money with a sin tax to cover health insurance for the poor.

In addition, the medical workforce plays an important role. It is necessary to strengthen training at all levels, starting with grassroots healthcare as the foundation.

At present, grassroots healthcare in many areas of the country is not good enough, so people tend to seek services at central-level health facilities, thus causing overloads.

We also focus on investing in science and technology in treatment and disease prevention. Telemedicine, and remote consultation between local and higher levels, can increase the efficiency of lower-level healthcare and grassroots healthcare.

It is necessary to build a database information system so that we can build the right strategies. For example, with a database on weight and obesity in particular, the government can develop a suitable and effective strategy to tackle the issue.

What were the highlights for HealthBridge in Vietnam in 2023, and what is your focus for this year?

Last year marked an important milestone, our 30-year anniversary in Vietnam. We have received recognition for our journey here, and have certificates of merit from the Vietnam Union of Friendship Organizations for sustainable development.

We collaborate with government agencies to carry out various programmes. For instance, we worked with the Ministry of Health on develop technical guidance on communication on adolescent reproductive health. The ministry then decided to use it as the national guideline and shared it with all provinces and cities.

We also work closely with the ministry in tobacco control and non-communicable disease prevention.

Furthermore, we have worked with the Ministry of Construction and other partners on developing technical guidance on bicycle safety infrastructure.

Not only that, but we are proud to develop models in collaboration with local partners, such as a safe traffic model in front of school gates, and a smoke-free restaurant model.

We have scaled up, shared, and replicated our work. Our key areas are tobacco control and non-communicable diseases prevention, liveable cities, nutrition, and maternal and child healthcare.

In the upcoming time, we will focus on these programmes, while possibly expanding on how climate change affects health as a cross-cutting area of intervention.

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By Tung Anh

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