Policymakers from Vietnam’s health care sector and experts from Harvard University in the US, gathered in Hanoi on April 16 for a seminar to discuss new methods and tools for Vietnam’s health care system and its financial reforms.

Health Minister Nguyen Thi Kim Tien said that the Vietnamese Government always prioritises health care to ensure the country’s sustainable development.

The country’s spending on health care represents almost 50 percent of State expenditure and every person nationwide now has access to health care services, said the minister.

Vietnam is currently striving to raise the rate of the population who have health insurance to 70 percent by 2015 and to 80 percent by 2020, she added.

She also pointed out the shortcomings in health care services, as more than half of health care and costs are paid by individuals and the allocation of capital in the sector is sporadic and complex.

A representative from the World Bank (WB) in Vietnam pledged that the WB will continue to support Vietnam ’s Ministry of Public Health to improve the quality of its services.

Vietnam is one of the few countries to have fulfilled almost all of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, said the representative. He suggested that Vietnam should introduce a long-term investment strategy to enable each locality, ministry and sector to effectively implement the country’s health care policy.

Professor William Hsiao from Harvard University said that investment in health care improves public health and has a direct impact on production, growth and attracting investment.

An increase of one year in life expectancy will result in a 4-percent rise in the country’s GDP with foreign investment and agricultural productivity up by 10 percent. A 10 percent drop in the number of patients with malaria in the country will also result in a 10-percent increase in GDP, he added.

The Harvard University professors and academics also made many recommendations on how to renovate Vietnam ’s medical financial system.-VNA