The health status in Vietnam was better than that in other Asian countries of comparable economic indicators. Over the last decade however, the reduction in health spending by the government had led to resource shortages in the public health facilities. Growing inequities emerged in the access to health care. Health status levels of the rural population were considerably lower than those of the urban population. In July 1998, the Ministry of Health of Vietnam and the Asian Development Bank developed a health sector project to address the problem of geographical and social inequities in the utilisation of the primary health care (PHC) services and to improve the quality of services. In the implementation of this study, EPOS Health Consultants was the lead firm in a consortium with InDevelop Uppsala AB (Sweden). The Institute of Ethnology (Vietnam) and the Institute of Sociology (Vietnam) were subcontracted local partners.
The main objective was the preparation of a health project to improve the health status of the rural population, especially the poor and the disadvantaged, in approximately ten provinces in Vietnam, by promoting access to quality PHC; improving health services for women and children; strengthening information, education and communication services; developing a pilot model for community health insurance; and improving the management capacity of the Ministry of Health for implementing PHC programmes. The tasks assigned to the consortium's expert team included: Preparing a Detailed Review of the Health Sector: assess the health status and the burden of disease; analyse the existing strategies, programmes, policies, institutional capacity and funding levels for PHC in rural areas, and identify demand Preparing the Project Feasibility Study: describe the project area and the rural health sector; describe the government policies related to rural areas and ethnic minorities; define the objectives, scope, rationale and logical framework of the project