Healthcare is a right, not a privilege

Around this time last year when Covid-19 first affected communities globally and in Vietnam, as a resident in Vietnam, I remember watching the daily briefing Government of Vietnam and felt very moved to be informed: the central quarantine at government facilities will be temporarily free for all.

Foreign visitors and foreigners will only have to pay hospital fees if they test positive for coronavirus and everyone will be treated equally and fairly. At peak times, there could easily be more than 50,000 people quarantined in different locations, so the cost to the government must have been enormous.

At that time, I lived and worked alone in Ho Chi Minh City, away from my wife and two daughters, I remained in the UK due to travel restrictions for a few more months. I can empathize with other foreigners in similar circumstances, who are battling danger and uncertainty in the midst of a pandemic without the current physical support system. And so the humanitarian and inclusive policies promulgated by the Vietnamese government, such as this interim one, have provided critical support to vulnerable and laudable groups around the world. gender.

Since today’s World Health Day theme is “Building a Fairer, Healthier World”, I’ve been thinking about how governments and businesses can play an important role in ensuring the ability to access and equity of health care.

The World Health Organization (WHO), the specialized United Nations agency responsible for international public health, was formally established on this day in 1948. Its constitution states that “the The enjoyment of the highest attainable standards of health is one of the fundamental rights of all human beings regardless of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition. “

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Healthcare for all, or healthcare for all, is a lofty goal that is not without challenges, as we have seen during Covid-19. We live in an unequal world, where access to health care often depends on an individual’s socioeconomic status. Although the world as well as Vietnam have seen major improvements in key health indicators over the past few decades, there is still room for better health equity.

A health worker holds a vial of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine.  AFP / Alain Jocard's photo.

A health worker holds a vial of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine. AFP / Alain Jocard’s photo.

In the recently published report on “Sustainability and Resilience in Vietnam’s Health System” produced by the Health Strategy and Policy Institute (HSPI) – Ministry of Health of Vietnam, within the framework of Partnership for Health System Sustainability and Resilience (PHSSR) between the World Economic Forum, London School of Economics and AstraZeneca, health experts acknowledge the efforts of the Government and the Department of Health Vietnam in expanding universal health coverage, and at the same time make some practical policy recommendations to strengthen Vietnam’s health system.

As Vietnam has a rapidly aging population and non-communicable diseases (NCDs) account for 77% of all deaths, as reported by WHO in 2018, the government finds that the key to building a health system Sustainability is about raising awareness, prevention and early detection through primary health care.

Over the past 5 years, the government has implemented many initiatives to shift health care from hospitals to primary health care at the grassroots level, including service providers at the district level. and commune. This direction is considered the right direction and deserves larger investments.

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When we have a strong enough, well-funded primary health care network, the mother of a sick child in the countryside can simply take her child to a nearby health station for treatment, instead of having to spend a few hours going to the hospital. upper level hospital. Accessibility gaps between different regions will begin to narrow.

The report also highlights equitable health financing policies in place to deliver support where people need it most. For example, by 2020, 90.85% of Vietnam’s population will participate in social health insurance and enjoy fairly comprehensive benefit packages. The Law on Health Insurance stipulates that vulnerable groups such as the poor, ethnic minorities, etc. are entitled to 100% payment for medical examination and treatment. However, private health insurance and other financing mechanisms should be encouraged to reduce pressure on the state budget.

This leads to another key point in the report on the importance of public-private partnerships (PPPs). “Its aim is to simultaneously reduce the burden on the public sector and ensure widespread access to quality treatment amid growing healthcare demand,” the report reads.

As the leader of AstraZeneca Vietnam, I consider PPP a pillar of our business to enable the sharing of diverse and complementary resources for a common goal – achieving good health outcomes. for more patients – in less time. I am pleased to see so many governments, organizations and businesses working together for the common good during Covid-19, despite the divisive tendencies of crises.

While we continue to work with the Department of Health, the British and Swedish Embassies and healthcare organizations to reduce the burden of NCDs and promote sustainability in local communities through the Green Leaf Program. Healthy Lungs, Young Health Programme, Green Energy for Health, our Covid-19 vaccine, developed in partnership with Oxford University, has provided protection from this deadly virus for over 100 million people in more than 100 countries, through bilateral agreements or Covax, regardless of their income level.

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So if our common goal is to build a fairer, healthier society in the post-Covid era, then cross-industry, cross-border cooperation is more important than ever. Since no one is safe until everyone is safe, we all share the responsibility of looking after each other.

Every gesture, program or policy that shows kindness and equality will go a long way to not only ensuring vital care for the communities they serve, but also inspiring others to do their part. theirs during difficult times.

* Nitin Kapoor is the President and CEO of AstraZeneca Vietnam. The opinions expressed are their own.

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