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Vietnam has made remarkable strides in recent years. The nation has achieved three of its eight millennium development goals (MDGs) related to poverty eradication, universal primary education and gender equity in education, while also vastly reducing child mortality rates, improving maternal health, and combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.

Despite this progress, many disparities still exist that disproportionately hold back poor, rural populations from achieving their full potential and enjoying the same benefits as their compatriots. For example, the under-five children mortality rate in the northern midland and mountainous region is about double the national rate and nearly three times higher than rates in the southeast region.

Vietnam’s elevation to a lower-middle income country in recent years is a great achievement that paves the way for improved living conditions and societal development. However, it also brings its own set of challenges, said Dr. Son Hong Bui, senior public health specialist for GaneshAID. He noted:

“The rapid economic growth also poses a number of challenges to sustaining health MDGs, such as 1) the increase in health care costs and low affordability (co-payment) facing a considerable poor population in the country, in addition to 1/3 of the population having no health insurance; mounting problems for HRH in rural and remote areas due to the brain drain to urban areas; and a widespread external fund withdrawal for continuing health care activities related to MDGs.”

Vietnam and 192 other nations committed to 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in order to sustain the achievements and resolve the limits of the MDGs, respond to significant changes that countries experienced over the past 15 years and address important topics that had not yet been targeted by the MDGs. Among these SDGs, one directly pertains to health, two others urge measures to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutritional standards, promote sustainable agriculture, and ensure the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation.

WHO office in Vietnam represents for development partners has pointed out three key tasks in order to realizing the direct and indirect health SDGs including: 1) Include health SDGs into the coming national socio-economic development strategies, and develop 5 year action plans in health sector for 2016 - 2030 period, 2) Develop human/technical and financial resource mobilizing strategies for the health sector action plans implementation, and 3) Develop the national SDGs monitoring indicators.

Dr. Son said he and other experts are currently focusing on providing technical assistance in order to achieve SDGs related to preventive medicine, health promotion and education.

Those efforts include providing strong evidence and organizing advocacy campaigns for financial resource allocation; continuing to participate in the health sector action plan development by formulating and reviewing annual reports; and supporting other organizations and partners on preventive health care activities, health promotion - community empowerment.

“We have strong expertise in these areas due to leading the implementation of - and learning from - projects in the fields of HIV, TB, adolescent reproductive health, vaccine-preventable diseases, non-communicable diseases, diarrhea and dengue fever,” Dr. Son said.

As a nonprofit consultancy organization, GaneshAID also provides technical assistance on Human Resource for Health capacity building, much like the services that have been provided to African countries through face-to-face training, distance learning, and e- and m-learning methods.

The Sustainable Development Goals, otherwise known as the Global Goals, build on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), eight anti-poverty targets that the world committed to achieving by 2015. The MDGs, adopted in 2000, aimed at an array of issues that included slashing poverty, hunger, disease, gender inequality, and access to water and sanitation. Enormous progress has been made on the MDGs, showing the value of a unifying agenda underpinned by goals and targets. Despite this success, the indignity of poverty has not been ended for all (Asian Development Bank)

For more information on SDG, http://www.who.int/topics/sustainable-development-goals/en/

http://www.who.int/gho/publications/mdgs-sdgs/en/

expert corner 1 - Mr. Son Son Hong Bui is a medical doctor and senior public health specialist for GaneshAID. Through his extensive research and project management experience, he has contributed to efforts nationwide to reduce cases of HIV, tuberculosis, hypertension and diarrheal disease.