Grassroots health care is the foundation of Vietnam's health system, said Nguyen Thi Kim Tien, Minister of Health at a meeting in Hue imperial city, central Thua Thien-Hue province, on March 24.

Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam, senior Party and Government officials, and delegates from the World Health Organisation, World Bank and the European Union attended.

Tien said that by now, Vietnam has health workers in all corners of the country, including midwives and health coordinators in remote villages and hamlets.

The nation has almost 11,000 communal health stations with hundreds of health workers, including well trained doctors and nurses.

"Our health system, particularly grassroots health networks, is commended by international organisations for their service to the people, particularly in mountainous and remote areas and on offshore islands," Tien said.

Although the grassroots healthcare system has had many successes, there are many difficulties and challenges. One of the obstacles is the rapid change in disease models, including in non-communicable and communicable diseases as well as food poisoning and environmental pollution.

She said the health of people living in mountain regions has been considerably improved, but their health index is still much lower than those living in the delta areas.

"That's why we need to consolidate and expand the grassroots health network, particularly in the domain of human resources, infrastructure, finance and lucrative policies to attract more healthcare workers willing to work in remote areas," Tien said.

Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam said he appreciates the Ministry of Health's initiative to coordinate with WHO, the European Union and the World Bank.

Dam laid down eight tasks for the grassroots health system, including defining the role of the system and the relations between grassroots health system and family doctors and assessing technical services provided and preferential policies for medical staff. The eventual goal was full health coverage for every Vietnamese.

Takeshi Kasai, from the WHO office in the Western Pacific Regional Office (WPRO) said Vietnam had one of the best health situations in the Pacific Region. However, he said the grassroots network should be reformed to ensure high quality service, particularly in developing human resources development and financial mechanisms.

Franz Jassen, head of the European Union delegation in Vietnam, said the EU highly appreciates Vietnam's achievements in the health sector, particularly at grassroots level.

Thomas Palu, director in charge of Global Population-Nutrition programme at the World Bank, said Vietnam is one of the 10 nations to achieve the Millennium Development Goal in heath.

However, he said the country needed a modern primary health system and suggested it increase investment in grassroots health to ensure a sustainable coverage across the nation.-VNA