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Treating the Primary Health Care System

Resource type: Grantee Story

Ca Lon with her daughter. Photo: Save the Children

“The doctor saved my life,” declared Ca Lon, recalling how, after delivering her first child, she experienced profuse bleeding that put her life at risk. Luckily, Ms. Lon was in a district hospital in Khanh Hoa province, where Dr. Van Dong was on duty. Because he had been trained to handle this type of complication through a programme funded by Atlantic, Dr. Dong diagnosed her cervical tear and performed surgery. She soon returned to her village with her newborn daughter. Recalling the situation, the doctor said, “I was very confident in my skills, so I was able to save a mother’s life.”

Improving the skills of Viet Nam’s health workforce is central to Atlantic’s investment in health care in Viet Nam, and there has been a 76 per cent decline in maternal mortality in some areas as a result of Atlantic-funded efforts.

Most significantly, Atlantic and its partners have worked together to “treat the system” and improve health care for Vietnamese people with few resources, including those living in poor, rural and ethnic minority communities. The goals are to improve the primary health care system – investing in facilities and workforce – and build a culture of public health that promotes prevention. This strategy helps relieve the pressure on provincial and specialty hospitals, which have been inundated with patients who should have received more effective primary care.

As part of this historic effort to improve community primary care, Atlantic funded the construction and renovation of approximately 800 local commune health centres in seven provinces, providing services for a population of over 8 million. It supported the training of health centre and hospital staff in maternal and child health care, reproductive health care and other skills in partnership with Save the Children, Marie Stopes International and several other nongovernmental organisations. To improve specialty care, research, education and medical practice, Atlantic invested in major specialty medical centres, including the National Hospital of Pediatrics and the Da Nang Eye Hospital. Finally, to ensure a strong role for public health, Atlantic invested in the Ha Noi School of Public Health, the Viet Nam Public Health Association, and public health campaigns to reduce deaths from tobacco and injury. The campaign that resulted in the 2007 law requiring all motorbike drivers and passengers to wear helmets has been used as a model for other issues internationally, like the World Wildlife Fund’s efforts to protect tigers in China and Viet Nam.

Since 1999, Atlantic has invested $259 million to treat Viet Nam’s health care system, and it has secured at least $690 million in matching funds from national and provincial governments and other donors. Government investments are a very hopeful sign that the system will continue to improve.


Giving While Living: Marking 30 Years of Achievements: 1982–2012

> Read more stories of impact in our 30th anniversary publication

Da Nang Eye HospitalHa Noi School of Public Health, Khanh Hoa Provincial Health DepartmentMarie Stopes International, the National Hospital of Pediatrics, and the Viet Nam Public Health Association are also Atlantic grantees for treating Viet Nam’s health care system. 

> View all grantees in Atlantic’s Population Health programme in Viet Nam

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Population Health

Global Impact:

Viet Nam