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On the Vietnam Health Model

Vietnam is performing much better in health indicators than India, although both countries have similar rankings on the medium human development index.

One of the questions we always ask health care experts in our Exclusive Interviews section  is – “which are the fast growing economies, that are handling their health problems better than India?”. Popular answers in the past have included Brazil, China and Sri Lanka.

In this article in the Indian Express, the writer, A.K. Shiva Kumar provides a comparison between India and Vietnam. According to him, Vietnam is performing much better in health indicators than India, although both countries have similar ranking on the medium human development. A. K Shiva Kumar  is director of the International Centre for Human Development.

He starts by providing some similarities between Vietnam and India. Economic reforms have helped boost incomes in both countries. Between 1990-2012, GDP per capita grew, on average, by nearly 6 per cent annually in Vietnam and 5 per cent in India. By 2013, Vietnam’s per capita gross national income in PPP international dollars was $ 5,030. India’s was slightly higher at $ 5,350. Economic expansion has helped reduce income poverty to a large extent in both countries.


According to Mr Kumar, both India and Vietnam fall in the rank of medium human development countries. Vietnam ranks 121 out of 187 countries, and India 135 on the UNDP human development index. The two countries are not that different in terms of income and educational attainment either.

However, Vietnam fares much better on health indicators than India :

  • Life expectancy at birth is 76 years in Vietnam as against 66 in India.
  • The under-five mortality rate is 23 in Vietnam and 56 in India.
  • Vietnam reports a maternal mortality rate of 67 per 1,00,000 live births and India of 178.
  • Only 2 per cent of children under five are severely underweight in Vietnam as against 16 per cent in India.

According to him , the differences in health outcomes is due to the fact that, historically, Vietnam has given much more importance to healthcare than India. They started  health-sector reforms in the 1920s and invested in a publicly financed health care system. Immunisation coverage is almost universal in Vietnam. Close to 93 per cent of mothers in Vietnam give birth in institutions and have access to skilled birth attendants. In India, the proportion has barely crossed 50 per cent.

He summarises India’s challenges very well : “ access is far from universal and problems of affordability and quality persist. Public hospitals lack equipment and infrastructure, doctors are reluctant to work in rural areas, corruption is common, and the inequities are striking”.

To read the entire article, click here .

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