Healthcare outreach a success story



Grassroots health care is the foundation of Vietnam's health system, said Nguyen Thi Kim Tien, Minister of Health at a meeting in Hue Imperial City on March 24.


Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam, senior Party and Government officials, and delegates from the World Health Organisation, World Bank and the European Union attended.


Tien said that after the birth of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in 1945, the Party and Government paid special attention to grassroots health.


By now, Vietnam has health workers in all corners of the country, including midwives and health co-ordinators in remote villages and hamlets.


She said that in the North in 1954, there were only 2,000 health stations in a total of 6,000 communes.


They were served by 258 assistant doctors and doctors; 5,000 nurses and nursing assistants and 78 pharmacists and secondary pharmacists. But now, the nation has almost 11,000 communal health stations with hundreds of health workers, including well trained doctors and nurses.


"Our health system, particularly grassroots health networks, are commended by international organisations for their service to the people, particularly in mountainous and remote areas and on offshore islands," Tien said.


Although the grassroots healthcare system has had many successes, there are many difficulties and challenges. One of the obstacles is the rapid change in disease models, including in non-communicable and communicable diseases as well as food poisoning and environmental pollution.


She said the health of people living in mountain regions had been considerably improved, but their health index was still much lower than those living in the delta areas.


"That's why we need to consolidate and expand the grassroots health network, particularly in the domain of human resources, infrastructure, finance and lucrative policies to attract more healthcare workers willing to work in remote areas," Tien said.


Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam said he appreciated the Ministry of Health's initiative to co-ordinate with WHO, the European Union and the World Bank.


Dam laid down eight tasks for the grassroots health system, including defining the role of the system and the relations between grassroots health system and family doctors and assessing technical services provided and preferential policies for medical staff. The eventual goal was full health coverage for every Vietnamese.


Takeshi Kasai, from the WHO office in the Western Pacific Regional Office (WPRO) said Vietnam had one of the best health situations in the Pacific Region. However, he said the grassroots network should be reformed to ensure high quality service, particularly in developing human resources development and financial mechanisms.


Franz Jassen, head of the European Union delegation in Vietnam, said the EU highly appreciated Vietnam's achievements in the health sector, particularly at grassroots level.


Thomas Palu, director in charge of Global Population-Nutrition programme at the World Bank, said Vietnam was one of the 10 nations to achieve the Millennium Development Goal in heath.


However, he said Vietnam needed a modern primary health system and suggested it increase investment in grassroots health to ensure a sustainable coverage across the nation.

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