Video Presentation on the Viet Nam – Australia Primary Health Care for Women and Children Project

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Author’s Note: Over the past 35 years, Jim Mielke, who has a doctorate in Public Health, has had the privilege of living and working in some of the poorest, most remote and under-served countries (23 so far) in the Asia-Pacific region, where he has assisted governments, international aid agencies and communities to strengthen local and national health systems for improved community-based primary health care, women and child health, and communicable diseases control, including HIV/AIDS prevention, care and support. 

In recent years, a big part of Jim’s mission has been to mentor students, members of voluntary organizations and other interested groups on international travel, study and overseas volunteer and professional opportunities. Jim also enjoys teaching yoga and mindfulness meditation in schools, YMCA conference and family retreat centers, and health and fitness centers in the USA and abroad. Jim lives in a quiet seaside setting in southern Thailand. 

The video presentation is from an International Public Health and Medical Sociology conference that was held from 21-23 September 2018 in Dallas, Texas, USA. 

The Vietnam-Australia Primary Health Care for Women and Children Project

Women at work in the Mekong Delta Region of Viet Nam

The Viet Nam-Australia Primary Health Care for Women and Children Project (VAPHC) was a six-year primary health care project implemented through the Government of Viet Nam (GOV) Ministry of Health (MOH) and four provincial Departments of Health (DOH); two in the south and two in the central highlands as direct development partners.

The VAPHC commenced in March 1998 and was completed in September 2003. It was co-financed by the GOV: AUD 2.1 million, and the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID): AUD 21 million, for a total cost of AUD 22.6 million.

Key principles of the Project’s implementation strategy were:

  • A strong focus on primary health care as the context for all activities;
  • Strengthening of systems for training, supervision, referral and capacity building;
  • Use of skills based training (SBT) which focuses on the application of skills in the workplace; and
  • Placement of health promotion in the broader context of community development.

The VAPHC Project Goal was:

To improve the quality of primary health care services delivery to women and children and the knowledge and health awareness of communities through training, provision of equipment, strengthening of fixed facilities, health promotion, management support and community development in the provinces of Long An, Ben Tre, Quang Ngai and Gia Lai.

Health workers received training in health promotion and communication skills and on the use of appropriate information, education and communication (IEC) materials for effective health education in the communities.

The Project’s major objectives were based on the three Components:

Component 1. To improve the quality of health services available to women and children by strengthening health training, referral and supervisory systems; providing equipment and transport and refurbishing selected fixed facilities at provincial, district and commune levels in Ben Tre, Long An, Quang Ngai and Gia Lai provinces;

Component 2.  To improve the capacity of health workers, health volunteers and mass organizations to promote the health and nutrition of women through the provision of appropriate and effective health promotion and communication skills training and health promotion materials, and to support improved community knowledge, awareness and participation through the development and maintenance of community based primary health care activities in Ben Tre, Long An, Quang Ngai and Gai Lai provinces; and,

Component 3. To efficiently and effectively manage and implement the project for the achievement of the defined outputs and project objectives.

A major focus of the project was to improve facilities and capacity for essential obstetric, gynecological and pediatric care

The Project provided support to health services delivery for women and children through improved facilities and capacity for essential obstetric, gynecological and pediatric care, strengthening of systems for skills-based training, supervision, monitoring and referral, and to the users of the public health system through health promotion and community development activities.

Ethnic minority woman conducting a group discussion in the village as part of the participatory needs assessment process

The VAPHC aligned with GOV health policy objectives and priorities by: focusing on primary care and community health improvement, safe motherhood, reducing infant and child mortality and improving preventive measures, and anticipated many of the GOV strategies to meet Millennium Development Goals and health development strategies.

Support was provided to women’s credit savings groups which helped finance village projects to meet locally identified priority needs, such as safe water and better child nutrition

The Project’s aims and operating procedures also matched AusAID’s health development framework, for example: strengthening health system fundamentals; addressing priority health needs of women and children, and supporting country-specific priorities to address high-burden health problems. Project management units within the provincial DOHs managed implementation, guided and supported by an Australian Advisory Team.

A group of healthy mothers and children

An ex-post evaluation (2007) found sustained impact from improving trends in provincial and individual health center Maternal and Child Health (MCH) data. The generally positive impact indicators and outcomes cannot be totally attributed to the VAPHC (although key informant interviews in many districts and communes referred specifically to the role of the Project in improved processes, outcomes and results).

Rather, the VAPHC contributed to overall health improvements in Viet Nam achieved through GOV and international partner activities. VAPHC initiatives have subsequently been incorporated into other GOV and donor interventions such as MOH projects supported by the Netherlands and the Asian Development Bank.

The Vietnam-Australia Primary Health Care for Women and Children Project

Video presentation by James Cameron Mielke, DrPH 

Stay tuned for more stories – coming soon!

You can read more about Jim’s backstory,  here and here.

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