|Associate Professor Phan Lê Thu Hằng. — VNA/VNS Photo|
Associate Professor Phan Lê Thu Hằng, deputy director of the health ministry’s Department of Financial Planning and director of the health partnership programme with the WHO, talks to the Vietnam News Agency about the achievements of the Vietnamese healthcare sector
Việt Nam is highly valued by the United Nations and international organisations for its achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in the healthcare sector. Could you tell us about these goals?
The MDGs, which consists of eight goals and 21 specific targets, are considered a global commitment agreed by all 189 member states of the United Nations, including Việt Nam. The countries committed to strive to achieve the goals by 2015 at the United Nations Millennium Summit which took place from September 6 to 8, 2000.
Reviewing 15 years of MDGs implementation, Việt Nam has basically achieved its health goals.
Việt Nam is assessed by the United Nations and international organisations to be a bright spot and a successful model in the MDGs implementation in the health sector with impressive achievements.
Firstly, Việt Nam has achieved or exceeded 16 out of 17 targets, with one target (the under-five-year old child mortality rate) almost achieved. Most of Việt Nam's indicators have been achieved, many of which are much better than the global average.
Secondly, Việt Nam has completed the goals in the context of very limited resources regarding total health expenditure per capita.
Many experts have analysed Việt Nam's successes and found they were made thanks to a combination of various factors such as favourable policies, high political effort and determination, nationalisation of the MDGs into Việt Nam’s development goals, and deep integration of these goals into key plans, strategies and policies.
They also include developing specific action plans and mobilising funds in an appropriate manner, with an efficient and equitable health system with an expanded grassroots healthcare network serving as the foundation.
Việt Nam has been praised as a miracle in COVID-19 prevention work. How do you view this assessment?
Việt Nam is considered by the international community the most successful country for effective and low-cost COVID-19 prevention and control.
With the strategy of "preventing, detecting, quarantine, localising, containing and treating," Việt Nam has succeeded in the early prevention of transmission sources, early detection of infection cases, fast tracing, zoning, quarantine as well as treating cases.
Thanks to the strategy, Việt Nam is able to contain single cases, community cases, or outbreaks at healthcare facilities in the shortest time possible.
Việt Nam was one of the first four countries to be able to isolate the new strain of the coronavirus. In only a short time, Việt Nam proactively made ventilators, diagnostic biologicals and started testing COVID-19 vaccines.
Many international experts said with its geographical characteristics and population size (located near pandemic hotspots, long borders, big road, air and sea routes, and large population size), Việt Nam was at a high risk of becoming a COVID-19 hotspot.
In fact, many countries with similar geographic characteristics and population size to Việt Nam are areas that have been hard-hit by COVID-19 such as Brazil, Pakistan and Indonesia.
The facts over the past year have proved that despite the risk factors, Việt Nam has taken advantage of its strengths in terms of institutions and policies, community strength and healthcare system with a grassroots health network serving as a firm foundation. Việt Nam has become a rare bright spot in the world by responding most effectively to the pandemic, both controlling the outbreak and promoting economic growth.
Has the grassroots health system been a firm foundation for Việt Nam to enjoy success in COVID-19 prevention?
Over the years, the Vietnamese health sector has prioritised prevention over treatment with a strong political commitment and a very high level of consensus among the public.
Việt Nam has a grassroots healthcare network and an expanded and effectively-operated public health disaster prevention/response system.
These are fundamental advantages that few countries have, giving Việt Nam a huge advantage over most other countries in dealing with new outbreaks.
Việt Nam has also developed a wide and efficient grassroots healthcare network with the capacity to provide essential healthcare services and to implement basic disease prevention measures for the community.
Our grassroots health network has many advantages compared to primary healthcare networks of many countries. It covers all residential areas, even areas that are geographically difficult to access.
The network is closely connected with the community through the role of communal clinics and local healthcare workers.
Services such as medical examination and treatment, family planning prevention and physical rehabilitation are integrated into the network.
The grassroots health network has operated very effectively during the COVID-19 pandemic, helping with tracing, screening, quarantine, taking testing samples, disinfection and on-site treatment.
The Vietnamese health sector keeps innovating to develop itself into a strong system. So what is the most important goal of the health sector now?
The Ministry of Health has determined renovating grassroots healthcare to look towards universal health coverage is one of the most important goals.
It aims to ensure all people have access to essential health services when needed, without incurring financial risks.
Universal healthcare coverage aims to ensure equity in accessing healthcare service, optimising resources and improving financial protection ability.
Universal health coverage remains a challenging goal for all healthcare systems, especially in countries with low and middle incomes per capita.
Currently, it is thought no country can achieve universal health coverage without a strong primary healthcare system and primary healthcare is considered a smart option and a key to realising universal healthcare coverage.
In Việt Nam, the grassroots healthcare system reform has been identified as a priority to hit the goal of universal health coverage and sustainable development goals in the healthcare sector.
In recent years, the Ministry of Health has worked closely with localities to develop and implement action plans on building and developing the grassroots health network. This effort has yielded positive initial results, including improving service delivery capacity and primary healthcare service quality. The grassroots healthcare system has responded more flexibly and effectively to the increasing trend of chronic and non-communicable diseases. The interaction between healthcare levels has become more flexible and effective, contributing to reducing the overload at the upper levels.
The healthcare sector has also made breakthroughs in the application of IT in public health management. — VNS