To reduce health unfairness in the country, more attention should be paid to reforming the health system, improving the quality of healthcare services, applying cost-effect healthcare interventions and conducting further research on health equity, recommended experts during a conference in Hanoi on October 15.

Experts from the Vietnam Partnership for Actions in Health Equity (PAHE) agreed that to move towards universal health coverage, the priority intervention should be focused on the expansion of health insurance targeting other disadvantaged people beyond just the poor alone, to include children, ethnic minority people, and near-poor workers and farmers.

Additionally, the country should improve the quality of health care services which are needed by every person, with particular attention given to closing the gap for disadvantaged groups such as women and those living in rural areas.

Integrated interventions should be applied with participation from different sectors, including women's empowerment, education, rural development and income generating activities.

The recommendations were revealed after PAHE completed its second Vietnam Health Watch Report (VHWR), which provides an assessment of the patterns and magnitudes of the health equity situation in the country. The first report was completed in late 2011 providing an overview of the country's situation.
The second VHWR analyses the data from several recent national representative population-based surveys such as the Vietnam Living Standard Survey 2008 and 2010, the Global Adult Tobacco Use Surveys 2010 and the Survey Assessment of Vietnamese Youth 2010.

The analysis showed that there still exist socio-economic inequities in different aspects of health at different degrees, including inequity by gender, age, education, ethnicity, economic status and place of residence.

According to the research, the age of older mothers, mothers with low education levels, those from ethnic minorities and those with lower living standards and living in rural areas create a higher risk of child mortality.

Only one child died out of the more than 1,600 born by mothers aged between 15-19 years old, whereas 229 children died out of those children born by women aged between 45-49. The research also revealed that women of these groups have less access to obstetric care.

More than 60 percent of the women from ethnic minorities deliver their babies at medical stations, whereas the rate for women in Kinh group is nearly 99 percent.

PAHE is a group of Vietnamese experts and researchers from non-governmental organisations, including the Institute for Social Development Studies, the Centre for Creative Initiative in Health and Population and the Hanoi Medical University.-VNA