EU, World Bank bring healthcare to Vietnam’s poor

by VOV26 September 2015 Last updated at 14:00 PM

VTV.vn - The Ministry of Health (MoH) recently held a workshop in Hanoi discussing the implementation of the second phase of a European Union-funded Vietnam Health Sector Policy Support Program titled HSPSP-2.

Speaking at the workshop, Deputy Minister of Health Pham Le Tuan said Vietnam has experienced two decades of rapid economic growth that has been accompanied by significant declines in poverty.

The pace of poverty reduction has now slowed and regional variations in the incidence remain significant, with poverty becoming increasingly concentrated among ethnic minority populations in mountainous areas.

In urban centres, rising inequality has become more apparent with some sections of society benefitting more from Vietnam’s economic development than others, Tuan said, thus the task of poverty reduction is not complete and in some respects, it has become more difficult.

The quality of essential social services like health and education has not adjusted to the rapid pace of Vietnamese society development and requires major efforts to ensure these services are in line with that expected from a middle income country, especially as regards the needs and means of the poor and near poor.

Tuan said, the health sector in Vietnam has a long track record of being pro-poor, as evidenced by significant progress on all health related millennium development goals (MDGs), comparing favourably to most countries in Asia.

The present challenge faced by the sector is that it has to modernize itself and function within a market economy therefore making it more difficult to keep its equity focus.

Governmental policy and budget decisions in recent years also leave little doubt about a continued and strong focus on affordable health services for the poor, Tuan underscored.

Encouraged by the success of the Vietnam government on health related issues and the first phase of the European Union-funded Vietnam Health Sector Policy Support Program HSPSP titled HSPSP-1, the EU has decided to continue its support for the second phase.

The second phase of the program will focus on the ten provinces considered to be the poorest – Lai Chau, Son La, Dien Bien, Kon Tum, Gia Lai, Ha Giang, Lao Cai, Cao Bang, Yen Bai and Dak Nong provinces.

With EUR114 million of non-refundable aid from the EU, the program aims to speed up progress towards universal health insurance coverage; improve the availability and quality of healthcare services at district and commune levels, thereby reducing hospital overcrowding; and contribute to the development of health policy and planning for the period 2016-2020.

The HSPSP-1, carried out from 2010-2013 at a total cost of EUR39.5 million, was dedicated to expanding health insurance coverage in poor mountainous provinces and reducing overloading at central-level hospitals via building satellite hospitals.

Tuan said, the health sector plan is structured around the six building blocks of a health system as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) and is therefore quite comprehensive.

The general objective of the plan is defined as to ‘continue to develop a health care system towards equity, efficiency and development, improving quality of care, meeting the growing and diverse needs for health care of the people’.

The specific objectives of the plan cover the six building blocks (human resources, financing, information, pharmaceuticals, service delivery and governance). The objectives of the plan can be summarized into three main priorities, which are also confirmed by other policy documents (specific actions) and declarations of the Minister of Health.

In addition, collaboration with the World Bank (WB) has been established to ensure a leveraged impact on the health sector, as the WB and the EU are now two of the most important actors in the health sector with regard to overall systems strengthening and among the few important donors aiming at a sector wide policy dialogue.

This strategic partnership will have a wider impact than the simple combination of resources and will therefore ensure a strengthened stance and leverage in the policy dialogue. The WB has also strongly welcomed this cooperation.

The EU was closely associated to the Bank's formulation mission (May 2013) so as to ensure increased complementarity and synergies among the EU and WB programs and policy dialogues.

The main beneficiaries of the sector reform contract are the citizens of Vietnam, especially the poor and near poor and other vulnerable population groups.

Contract implementation will require the involvement and coordination of several departments of the MoH, provincial, district and communes health services in the ten selected provinces.

Other important stakeholders will be Vietnam Social Security, the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Planning and Investment. Policy dialogue will involve, in addition, development partners, scientific and research institutes and civil society organizations.

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