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Celebrating 40 years of health innovation in Vietnam

November 11, 2020 by Elaine Ung

Reflecting on four decades of public health progress, and recommitting for the future.

Dr. Huong Minh Vu, PATH’s regional technical director in Vietnam, prepares Japanese encephalitis vaccines at an immunization drive in Xieng Khouang Province, Laos. PATH/Aaron Joel Santos.

Dr. Huong Minh Vu, PATH’s regional technical advisor, prepares Japanese encephalitis vaccines at an immunization drive in Xieng Khouang Province, Laos. PATH/Aaron Joel Santos.

Much has changed since 1980. That’s when we first began working in Vietnam as technical advisors to the government.

Today, PATH has more than 60 employees in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City and serves as a regional hub, coordinating projects across Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos.

The last four decades have seen PATH’s contributions evolve to meet the needs of the Vietnamese people, but partnership has always been central to our success. Collaborating with local, national, and global partners has been the key to making progress toward health equity.

A local PATH

PATH has an enduring partnership with the government of Vietnam, strengthened by people like Dr. Huong Minh Vu, PATH’s regional technical advisor, who has worked with PATH in Vietnam for more than 20 years.

“For 40 years, PATH has proven to be a dependable technical advisor to the government of Vietnam,” he said. “PATH has demonstrated it can respond to the country’s health priorities by implementing innovative new health technologies and approaches.”

“For 40 years, PATH has proven to be a dependable technical advisor to the government of Vietnam.”
— Dr. Huong Minh Vu, Regional Technical Advisor, PATH

PATH works closely with the government and other international and local partners to identify, test, and scale innovative health care models—like using a mix of public and private providers to control tuberculosis, establishing the country’s first human milk bank to provide donor milk to 4,000 infants annually, and bringing hypertension screening to more people through a network of health collaborators and volunteers.

We’ve focused on approaches like these, which have sustainability and community baked into them, helping ensure progress continues long after our projects end.

One of PATH’s milestones in Vietnam is the successful introduction of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for preventing HIV infection. PATH, together with the US Agency for International Development, supported the Vietnam Authority on HIV/AIDS Control’s oral HIV PrEP pilot and contributed to the national PrEP program rollout.

Civil-society organizations and the private sector are also on board, building a local market for goods and services to increase domestic HIV financing.

Global action in Vietnam

Vietnam has been a leader in global health, and PATH’s work in the country continues to inform our work regionally and globally.

In the ‘80s, PATH and Vietnamese manufacturers teamed up to shift the condom market, enabling companies to fill a gap left by decreasing donor funds. This helped more people access high-quality, affordable condoms in the region.

Today, Vietnam’s approach to immunization is inspiring countries around the world. PATH’s collaboration with Vietnam’s National Expanded Program on Immunization, the Ministry of Health, and Viettel (one of the largest telecommunications groups in Vietnam) helped create Vietnam’s National Immunization Information System.

The digital immunization system has been widely shared, guiding other countries as they implement electronic immunization registries.

“The National Immunization Information System is one of PATH’s great collaborative accomplishments,” said Dr. Nga Tuyet Nguyen, PATH country director in Vietnam. “It illustrates what we can achieve when we have strong partnerships and buy-in from key stakeholders.”

“The National Immunization Information System is one of PATH’s great collaborative accomplishments.”
— Dr. Nga Tuyet Nguyen, PATH Country Director, Vietnam

In addition, PATH supported the successful development and licensing of a seasonal influenza vaccine—the result of almost a decade of partnership between the Institute of Vaccines and Medical Biologicals, PATH, Vietnam’s Ministry of Health, the World Health Organization, and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority within the US Department of Health and Human Services.

PATH provided technical assistance to develop a second-generation rotavirus vaccine that can be more easily transported, stored, and delivered in low-resource communities. And with support from PATH and other development partners, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar introduced a Japanese encephalitis vaccine into routine immunization programs and Vietnam extended the Japanese encephalitis vaccination program nationwide. This has protected millions of children from this deadly disease.

A new challenge in 2020

Vietnam’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic was swift and decisive, and continues to be a globally recognized success.

Their online COVID-19 case reporting system, developed by a local vendor with technical assistance from PATH and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, collects and tracks suspected, contacted, and confirmed COVID-19 cases in real time.

It visualizes the data so users can see clusters of cases and the patients’ demographic information. PATH also helped assess Vietnam’s oxygen needs for immediate COVID-19 treatment and for longer-term needs beyond the pandemic.

Vietnam is committed to manufacturing a COVID-19 vaccine, not only to meet critical needs at home, but also to advance equitable access in the region. In support, PATH is providing technical assistance to the Ministry of Health on COVID-19 vaccine development and introduction.

Celebrating the future

The team behind PATH’s work in Vietnam and in the broader Mekong Region. Photo: PATH.

The team behind PATH’s work in Vietnam and in the broader Mekong Region. Photo: PATH.

On November 19, 2020, PATH will be celebrating (virtually) with more than 600 invited guests from the government of Vietnam, the private sector, community organizations, donors, national partners, and international stakeholders.

Speakers—including Vietnam’s vice minister of health and PATH’s president and CEO—will highlight many of PATH’s lifesaving innovations that have reached millions of people across the country.

We will celebrate 40 years of deep partnership and shared progress on safe motherhood, immunization, infectious diseases like HIV and TB, noncommunicable diseases, and global health security.

We hope lessons from Vietnam will encourage more governments to implement innovative public health solutions to meet the needs of all communities. And we look forward to our continued work serving the people of Vietnam and the Mekong Region.

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