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Cablegate: Hhs Secretary Leavitt: Vietnam Scenesetter, Part Ii of Iii

VZCZCXRO9584
OO RUEHHM
DE RUEHHI #0370/01 0920112
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 010112Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO RUEAUSA/DEPT OF HHS WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7507
INFO RUEHPH/CDC ATLANTA GA PRIORITY
RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH 4517
RUEHBK/AMEMBASSY BANGKOK 6277
RUEHJA/AMEMBASSY JAKARTA 0698
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME 0269
RUEHGP/AMEMBASSY SINGAPORE 2578
RUEHVN/AMEMBASSY VIENTIANE 4092

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 09 HANOI 000370

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

FOR SECRETARY LEAVITT FROM THE AMBASSADOR
STATE FOR EAP/MLS, EAP/EP, INR, OES/STC, OES/IHA
STATE PASS TO USAID FOR ANE AND GH
HHS/OSSI/DSI PASS TO OGHA (WSTIEGER/MLVALDEZ/CHICKEY/
DMILLER), NIH FIC (RGLASS) AND NIAID (AFAUCI/GHANDLEY), SAMHSA, AND
FDA (MLUMPKIN/MPLAISIER)
CDC FOR SBLOUNT, JGERBERDING, SREED, NCOX, KCASTRO
USDA PASS TO APHIS, FAS, FSIS
BANGKOK FOR CDC, APHIS, REO, USAID (OCARDUNNER/WHELDEN/
CBOWES/MACARTHUR/MBRADY)
BEIJING FOR HHS HEALTH ATTACHE
PHNOM PENH FOR CDC INFLUENZA COORDINATOR
ROME FOR FAO
VIENTIANE FOR CDC INFLUENZA COORDINATOR

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: TBIO KPAO KFLU KHIV VM
SUBJECT: HHS SECRETARY LEAVITT: VIETNAM SCENESETTER, PART II OF III
(HEALTH)

REF: A: Hanoi 369; B: Hanoi 177 and 07 Hanoi 2116; C: 07 Hanoi
1862; D: Hanoi 37 and 147; E: 07 Hanoi 1841; F: 05 Hanoi 2236; G: 07
Hanoi 2071; H: Hanoi 64: I: 07 Hanoi 2093; J: 07 Hanoi 2099; K:
Hanoi 331; L: 05 Hanoi 2826.

1. (U) This cable is Sensitive But Unclassified. It is for official
use only, not for dissemination outside USG channels or posting on
the Internet.

2. (SBU) Secretary Leavitt, this cable supplements Ref A and
highlights the overarching health-related challenges facing Vietnam.
We are proud of our robust interagency in-country team approach to
health issues, which frequently extends beyond our U.S. agencies
with traditional health roles. While the President's Emergency Plan
for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is our largest programmatic effort (which
will be covered in a Part III cable), four HHS agencies also focus
on other prominent health issues -- influenza, dioxin, and
tuberculosis. However, the Mission team also engages in and tracks
myriad other issues, including food safety, road safety, and
occupational health. We work very closely with our Government of
Vietnam (GVN) counterparts and have been consistently impressed with
their skills and engagement. Nonetheless, at the end of the day,
Vietnam lacks capacity and has yet to implement effective public
health policies and service improvements necessary to ensure the
health of its citizens needed to keep pace with its dizzying
economic growth. The following summarizes our primary efforts.

HHS WAS ONE OF THE FIRST
------------------------

3. (U) HHS cooperation with Vietnam pre-dates the re-opening of the
U.S. Embassy in Hanoi in 1995 and figured prominently in early
U.S.-Vietnam post-conflict relationships and collaborative efforts.
Following on CDC technical visits from the mid-1980s, from the
initiation of NIH clinical trials work on improved typhoid vaccines
in 1993, to the posting of the first Embassy-based HHS Health
Attache in 1998, to CDC's subsequent work on HIV/AIDS and
tuberculosis, the efforts of HHS officers have directly and
substantially contributed to improved U.S.-Vietnam relations and
benefits. From our earliest days in Vietnam, HHS personnel have
continued to focus on solutions to the politically sensitive issue
of Agent Orange and its contaminant dioxin. We recently celebrated
the ten-year anniversary of the signing by then-Secretary Donna
Shalala of our bilateral Memoranda of Understanding (one for HHS/OS
and one for HHS/CDC) with the Vietnamese Ministry of Health (MOH)
that formed the basis of our close and cooperative bilateral
efforts. Your signature, along with that of former Minister of
Health, Dr. Nguyen Thi Trung Chien, of the July 2006 bilateral
Agreement on Health and Medical Sciences Cooperation solidified and
strengthened our already close public health relationship.

INFLUENZA INVESTMENT PAYING DIVIDENDS
-------------------------------------

4. (U) U.S. efforts have made a difference in Vietnam's fight to
contain highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) and have
contributed to Vietnam's overall efforts to improve health systems
capacity. We emphasize coordination -- within the U.S. Government,
among international donors, and with our GVN counterparts -- as the
key to building an effective response. U.S. engagement played a
central role in the formation of the Vietnam Partnership for Animal
and Human Health (PAHI), the coordinating body for all efforts to
counter avian influenza (AI) within Vietnam. U.S. agencies,
including ASPER, CDC, DOD, DOS/AIWG, DOS/MED, FDA, NIH, OS/OGHA,
USDA, and USAID, target animal and human health, with the goal to
integrate efforts and to encourage our Vietnamese partners to take a
holistic approach to the issue. From 2005 through FY2007, the

HANOI 00000370 002 OF 009


United States has contributed over USD 23 million to counter AI in
Vietnam, second only to Japan among bilateral assistance programs.
Though multilateral donors provide the largest percentage of
flu-related overseas direct assistance in Vietnam, U.S. technical
assistance and information exchange supplement our financial
contributions and help leverage similar assistance and cooperation
from other donors. Our CDC Influenza Coordinator and USDA and USAID
staff (including those from RDM/A in Bangkok) have formed close
working relationships with the World Health Organization (WHO)
(bolstered in Hanoi by a seconded CDC influenza epidemiologist) and
the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to promote and ensure
the GVN's openness and transparency on AI, whether it be timely
reporting or sample sharing.

5. (SBU) Learning from its experience with Severe Acute Respiratory
Syndrome (SARS), the GVN took quick action to contain AI, and has
been rewarded with a notable drop in the number and intensity of
animal outbreaks and human infections. The GVN has committed
roughly USD 130 million from the national budget to help fund the
estimated USD 250 million national plan for 2006-2010 and GVN
agencies typically cooperate closely with donors. Though internal
GVN communications difficulties sometimes delay notification to the
international health community, and bureaucratic friction may slow
sample sharing (Ref B), our Vietnamese counterparts remain committed
to the campaign. Although the rate of human cases has decreased,
sporadic non-clustered cases associated with high-risk animal
hndling behavior and the associated very high mortality rate,
highlight the ongoing risk and could serve as the starting point for
a pandemic. Vietnam has moved from an emergency response phase
(evident from late 2003 through the epidemic waves of 2006) into a
crisis management phase. However, Vietnam now needs to develop a
sustainable long-term strategy focusing on improved poultry
management practices to minimize the risk of a pandemic. In
addition, the status of GVN's planning for a WHO Phase 6 pandemic is
unclear, particularly in non-health related areas such as
maintenance of essential services. I view continued U.S. investment
as a critical contribution to the road ahead.

6. (SBU) In my view, we face three primary challenges to our AI work
in Vietnam. First, relative to many other major global health
efforts, we know little about influenza, requiring an increasingly
robust emphasis on field-based programmatic evaluation and research
to move beyond the emergency funding response phase. As part of
this emphasis, USAID is about to start a study to provide evidence
to GVN on how to move from mass vaccination to a more fiscally
sustainable HPAI control strategy. Second, we need to better bridge
the gap we sometimes face between the animal and human health
sectors. Our team works closely to ensure that we share information
and ideas. We are working to ensure our international and GVN
partners do the same. Finally, we do not see an integrated, global
public health approach to influenza. This requires us to focus on
coordinating efforts among the donor community and takes away from
our specific counter-AI efforts.

AGENT ORANGE, LOOKING FORWARD
-----------------------------

7. (SBU) Over the past few years, we have begun to change the
perceptions of the GVN and the people of Vietnam on Agent Orange
(AO) and its contaminant dioxin, about which the GVN waged a 30-year
propaganda campaign demonizing the United States. Simply put, both
sides are striving to find common ground and to reduce the strain it
puts on bilateral relations (ref C). While we do not believe that
sound science supports GVN assertions that up to 3 million
Vietnamese suffer disabilities linked to AO and dioxin, certain
"hotspots" where AO was stored and loaded during the conflict have
soil dioxin concentrations exceeding levels recommended by the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency and international standards. Since

HANOI 00000370 003 OF 009


2001, the USG has spent over USD 2 million to increase the capacity
of Vietnam to respond to dioxin contamination and potential health
issues. At the same time, the bilateral dialogue on the AO/dioxin
issue has faced difficulties and setbacks in bilateral cooperation,
including the cancellation in 2003 of a USD multi-million HHS
project to investigate the causal association between dioxin and
possible health effects.

8. (SBU) Since 2006, the State Department and EPA have provided USD
400,000 in technical assistance to the GVN for remediation planning
and immediate interventions at the Danang airport, one of our major
AO storage and handling sites during the war. The U.S.-Vietnam
Joint Advisory Council (JAC), on which the HHS Health Attache plays
a leading role, brings together scientists and public health
officials from both countries to discuss possible technical
cooperation. Building on the November 2006 agreement between
President George W. Bush and President Nguyen Minh Triet that
"further joint efforts to address the environmental contamination
near former dioxin storage sites would make a valuable contribution
to the continued development of our bilateral relationship," we have
continued to engage on this issue (ref D). Last year, Congress
appropriated an additional USD 3 million in Economic Support Funds
(ESF) for "dioxin mitigation and health activities," which we have
begun to implement. Over the next few years, we will continue to
work together with the GVN, UNDP, Ford Foundation and other partners
in an increasingly multilateral effort to address the impacts of
dioxin.

VIETNAMESE FOOD SAFETY AND EXPORTS TO THE UNITED STATES
--------------------------------------------

9. (SBU) As you know, Vietnam exports a wide variety of agricultural
products to the United States, including fish, seafood, cashews,
coffee, and tea. Pending phytosanitary approval from USDA's Animal
and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), Vietnam plans to begin
shipping various types of tropical fruit, as well. Vietnamese food
safety issues directly impact Vietnamese exports to the United
States, while also creating an opportunity for increased
U.S.-Vietnam collaboration. When I met the new Minister of Health,
Dr. Nguyen Quoc Trieu, he listed food safety as one of his top
priorities, and asked for help from the U.S. FDA (ref E). We are
proud to note that U.S. agricultural exports to Vietnam have grown
rapidly, and include temperate fruits, meats, almonds, and a range
of processed food. Our growing trade relationship depends on
ensuring food safety. At the same time, lax domestic food safety
regulations and enforcement have resulted in numerous outbreaks of
foodborne diseases within Vietnam, leading Minister Trieu to make
his request.

10. (SBU) To date, we have had few major food safety-related
problems in our agricultural trade relationship. While FDA has
occasionally detected unacceptable levels of drug residues in fish
and seafood imports, it has worked well with Vietnamese officials to
maintain the safety of the exports without seriously reducing
volumes (ref F). To improve the competency of Vietnamese officials,
FDA has held several in-country training courses and is in the
process of exchanging letters with Vietnam's National Fisheries
Quality and Veterinary Directorate (NAFIQAVED) to document our
bilateral approach to ensuring and monitoring Vietnamese seafood
exports to the United States. In response to Vietnamese requests,
USDA is hosting a delegation of Vietnamese officials to provide
input on Vietnam's planned food safety regulations. Repeat
state-side FDA testing results from January are pending. Further
bolstering our relationship, CDC helped the WHO respond to a MOH
call for assistance in a recent large outbreak of cholera (possibly
linked to domestically-produced shrimp paste) in northern Vietnam
(ref G).


HANOI 00000370 004 OF 009


11. (SBU) U.S. exporters generally find Vietnamese food safety
oversight to be reasonable. Vietnam recently modified shelf-life
labeling requirements to come more or less into compliance with the
Codex Alimentarus. Vietnam maintains a relatively open regime for
imports of U.S. beef -- particularly when compared to most other
Asian countries -- though these rules still remain more restrictive
than World Organization for Animal Health (which maintains original
French-based acronym, "OIE" for "Office International des
Epizooties") bovine spongiform encephalopathy (or "mad cow disease")
guidelines. We also are concerned about GVN regulations that
provide zero tolerance for salmonella, but which, in fact, are not
generally enforced. Finally, we continue to watch draft
biotechnology regulations that would require labeling and special
certification for imports of biotechnology products (ref H).

TUBERCULOSIS: VIETNAM'S FIGHT TO KEEP ITS GOOD REPUTATION
--------------------------------------

12. (SBU) Largely powered by a strong partnership between the Dutch
and the Vietnamese National Tuberculosis Control Program (NTP),
Vietnam's response to tuberculosis (TB) has been viewed as one of
the best among the 22-high burden countries (defined by the WHO as
those countries which comprise 80 percent of the world's TB cases).
CDC has supported these efforts through robust technical assistance,
operations research, epidemiology training, and public health
management training since 1997, with support from USAID, and more
recently with a particular focus on TB-HIV as part of our PEPFAR
efforts. At the same time, while Vietnam continues to meet WHO case
detection and treatment targets, its TB rate has not dropped as
expected, primarily due to an increase in TB among HIV-infected men
in younger cohorts. Indeed, based on not-yet-published results of a
recent study, prevalence of TB in Vietnam may be 1.5 times greater
than previously thought. Meanwhile, pursuant to health sector
reorganization, over 50 percent of the TB physicians in the country
moved to non-TB work at district hospitals in 2007, placing a
tremendous training burden on the program. Strikingly, funding is
not a concern; the issue is the application of existing resources,
particularly in light of substantial funding from the Global Fund to
Fight AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis (GF). In Vietnam, MOH's
haphazard approach to running the GF Country Coordinating Mechanism
(CCM) (covering all three diseases) makes it difficult for us to
contribute to adequate stakeholder oversight. We are working to
address that problem.

13. (SBU) Persons born in Vietnam are among the leading groups of
persons diagnosed with TB disease in the United States. At this
end, the U.S. Consulate in HCMC, in coordination with CDC and the
International Organization on Migration, closely screens potential
immigrants to minimize the numbers of official immigrants with
active TB disease (contagious form), currently an alarming 0.8
percent of applicants, some with drug-resistant strains. However,
despite new CDC recommendations and added screening capacity, we
cannot catch every infected person, especially those who are
non-contagious and asymptomatic. This puts a strain on the U.S.
public health system. Implementing a modern public health approach
to national TB control in Vietnam, which lowers TB prevalence in
Vietnam (including potential travelers to the United States), is the
best long-term plan to reduce TB entering the United States.

U.S. SUPPORT FOR GOOD CLINICAL PRACTICE
---------------------------------------

14. (U) U.S. FDA has financially supported and provided technical
assistance for two Good Clinical Research Practice (GCP) training
workshops, conducted in cooperation with Vietnam's Department of
Science and Training (MOH). GCP guides regulators, investigator
groups, and sponsors in the conduct and oversight of clinical trials
research. The participants include MOH regulators (a nascent

HANOI 00000370 005 OF 009


group), hospital-based physicians who conduct clinical trials, and
pharmaceutical scientists who sponsor research. The initial
training workshop, held in September 2006, focused on establishing
the technical content of model training, while the December 2007
workshop, which included many of the same participants, used actual
existing drug evaluation protocols to conduct mock inspections at
three clinical trial sites. These workshops should establish a
sustainable independent training program for the MOH and may guide
the FDA in determining how to provide technical assistance to other
partners.

ROAD SAFETY: NEW HELMET LAW A BIG WIN
-------------------------------------

15. (U) Vietnamese are accumulating motor vehicles more quickly per
capita than any other nation in the world. Consequently, this
country has seen a four-fold increase in traffic accidents over the
past 10 years. Thirty-five people die and nearly 70 suffer brain
trauma each day from road accidents, with at least 12,000 dead and
17,000 seriously injured in 2007 alone. Vietnam's overall
traffic-related mortality rate is nearly double that of high-income
countries, and traffic accidents are the largest cause of death for
Vietnamese between 18 and 45 years of age. The Embassy participates
in the Asian Injury Prevention Foundation (AIPF) National Helmet
Wearing Campaign, which helped result in the implementation of
mandatory helmet laws last December (ref I). CDC experts recently
met with Vietnamese transportation officials to discuss possible
technical assistance. High level U.S. officials, including Commerce
Secretary Gutierrez last fall, have helped me promote road safety

SIPDIS
during visits here.

PERSISTENT DENGUE FEVER AGAIN CYCLING UPWARDS
---------------------------------------------

16. (U) From 1994-2003, dengue fever and dengue hemorrhagic fever
(DF/DHF) ranked among the communicable diseases with the highest
mortality and morbidity in Vietnam. Though dengue mortality and
morbidity rates remain below the levels from the 1980s, Vietnam's
90,749 cases of dengue in 2007 more than doubled its average number
of cases per eyar over the last eight years. Therefore, Vietnam
considers dengue control a high public health priority, especially
in the high-risk southern provinces (ref J). Because a dengue
vaccine is at least 10 years away, treatment centers on supportive
care. In a large dengue outbreak, thousands of infected persons
spread over a large area can overload hospitals and impact
socio-economical stability. To prevent such an outbreak, in FY07,
USAID provided USD 100,000 in assistance to strengthen dengue
diagnosis (clinical and laboratory), improve case management at
provincial and district levels, pilot a school-based vector control
model, and enhance GVN technical and managerial capacity to contain
outbreaks.

MALARIA: SUSTAINED EFFORT NEEDED TO FINISH THE JOB
--------------------------------------------- -

17. (U) Between 1994 and 2004, the use of insecticide treated nets,
strategic indoor residual spraying, community use of rapid
diagnostic tests, and the use of artemisinin derivatives for
antimalarial treatment resulted in dramatic decreases in the rate of
malaria - from 140,000 cases (with 600 deaths) to fewer than 25,000
cases (with 34 deaths). However, these remarkable successes face
serious threats from the possible introduction of counterfeit and
substandard antimalarials, together with the potential for the
emergence of drug resistance, especially to the artemisinin
combination therapies. To meet these emerging challenges, USAID and
its partner, the WHO, support GVN participation in a regional
network of sentinel surveillance sites, which supplements heavy GF
support for the program. Through this process, the Vietnam National

HANOI 00000370 006 OF 009


Malaria Control Program will receive data to ensure that its first
line drugs remain efficacious. In addition, USAID helps ensure the
quality of antimalarial drugs through a nationwide sampling of
antimalarial drugs, which provides data to the drug regulatory
authorities to take action against substandard or counterfeit
medicines.

OTHER CDC ACTIVITY RUNS THE GAMUT
---------------------------------

18. (U) Over the past several years, CDC assistance has taken many
forms, including responding to GVN requests for assistance in
outbreak investigations, notably cholera and SARS. To build
stronger public health capacity, CDC provides training opportunities
at CDC, while helping the WHO to design and implement a Field
Epidemiology Training Program, modeled after CDC's Epidemic
Intelligence Service. In 1996, CDC's Sustainable Management
Development Program (SMDP) began working with the Vietnam MOH, and
the Hanoi School of Public Health (which we hope you will visit
during your stay in Hanoi) to strengthen leadership and management
capacity. As Vietnam modernizes and the economy grows, the negative
health impacts of smoking, pollution, and motor vehicle safety are
becoming apparent. CDC supports GVN efforts to counter these
emerging issues through programs such as a new anti-smoking
initiative funded by the Bloomberg Foundation, and implemented
through the CDC Foundation, which will be led by WHO in Vietnam.
Finally, CDC provides technical assistance to and has research
projects with the GVN on several other health issues, including
viral encephalitis, vaccine-preventable diseases (i.e., rubella),
injection safety, and immigrant and refugee health screening.

NIH IS EVERYHWERE (IF YOU LOOK) AND VERY BUSY
---------------------------------------------

19. (U) Over the past five years, NIH has supported literally
hundreds of projects in all of the areas mentioned in this cable.
For example, the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious
Disease (NIAID) funded the Southeast Asia (SEA) Influenza Clinical
Research Network - Oxford University Clinical Research Unit in HCMC
to establish an Emerging Infectious Diseases Clinical Research
Network for Southeast Asia. Additionally, over the past year, NIAID
has partnered with the World Bank, AFRIMS, and the Molecular
Immunology Division at National Institute for Hygiene and
Epidemiology (NIHE/MOH) to develop a proposal for a national
seroprevalence survey to examine socioeconomic risk factors for
infection with AI. For over 15 years, scientists at NIH's National
Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) have teamed
with Vietnamese counterparts to make ground-breaking progress
towards developing an effective vaccine against typhoid in children.
These projects do not simply benefit Vietnam, but have the
potential for worldwide applicability.

A STRONG, BUT VULNERABLE, IMMUNIZATION PROGRAM
--------------------------------------------- -

20. (U) Vietnam's MOH has a strong history of producing quality
vaccines and runs one of the best immunization programs among
developing nations (under WHO's Expanded Program in Immunization --
EPI -- started in 1985), which have contributed to major advances in
longevity and overall health. Polio was eliminated in 2000;
tetanus, in 2005. Bill and Melinda Gates visited Vietnam not to
examine how they could help, but rather to determine if Vietnam's
success in immunizations programs could yield lessons which could be
applied in Africa. However, overall immunization rates for the six
EPI vaccines (i.e., against tuberculosis, diphtheria, pertussis,
tetanus, measles, and polio) dropped from 96 percent in 2006 to 81
percent in 2007, due to consumer reaction to initial (incorrect)
Vietnamese media reports that 11 children died from adverse effects

HANOI 00000370 007 OF 009


from Hepatitis B-vaccine. Though the MOH responded promptly and
openly, seeking assistance from international experts and informing
concerned parents that the deaths did not stem from the
immunizations, some worried parents seemingly have decided to avoid
immunizing their children.

ADOPTIONS PROBLEMS LEAD TO HEALTH CONCERNS
------------------------------------------

21. (SBU) Increasing levels of fraud in international adoptions may
be impacting the health of Vietnamese orphans. Increasing demand
for Vietnamese babies following the resumption of the U.S. adoption
program in 2005 has led to dramatic growth in the number of babies
in Vietnamese orphanages, straining their ability to care for their
young charges. In February of this year we learned of the deaths of
eight infants at an orphanage in Hanoi from pneumonia, three of whom
were slated to be referred to American adoptive parents (ref K).
The orphanage where the children became ill had taken in over 30
abandoned children in less than a year, most of which were abandoned
under highly suspicious circumstances. Lacking physical or material
upgrades, these overcrowded facilities create environments where
disease can spread rapidly. We hope that our aggressive efforts to
combat fraud and corruption in the adoptions process will help
prevent future such tragedies.

DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE HEALTH PROMOTION ACTIVITIES
--------------------------------------------- --

22. (U) In addition to programs carried out under the auspices of
PEPFAR, DoD also coordinates a number of other programs that make a
direct contribution to Vietnamese health. Through U.S. Defense
Attache Office (DAO) in Hanoi, U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM) has
sponsored Vietnamese participation in a number of important regional
medial conferences, including the annual Asia Pacific Military
Medical Conference (APMMC). Vietnam hosted the APMMC 15 in May
2005. USPACOM has coordinated two prior annual Nursing Subject
Matter Expert Exchanges (SMEEs) with military nurses from Vietnam,
and a third is planned for this fall. An important objective of
these SMEEs has been the development of nursing curricula and
improved training standards. DAO also helps facilitate the
participation by Vietnam's military medical professionals in
HIV/AIDS Counseling & Testing Training Workshops and Medical
Readiness Exercises (MEDRETE) held throughout the region (apart from
PEPFAR). DoD has built nine district-level health clinics
throughout Thua Thien-Hue and Lai Chau Provinces. Through the
Expanded International Military Education and Training program,
Vietnam this year is welcoming a U.S. military mobile training team
to educate and train Vietnamese medical surgeons on the newest
surgical trauma response techniques. Finally, last year, with U.S.
PHS participation, the USS Peleliu hosted a medical mission to
Danang; this year, we expect the USN Mercy.

USAID NON-HEALTH FUNDS CONTRIBUTE TO HEALTH IN VIETNAM
--------------------------------------------- -----

23. (U) Our broad-based efforts to help Vietnam transform its
economy, which I highlighted in Part 1 (ref A), have brought some
tangible benefits in the health sector. As one example, USAID
support contributed to the development of the Law on Enterprises.
Designed principally for the commercial sector, the law has helped
to accelerate equitization (privatization) of state-owned hospitals,
resulting in increasing numbers of privately operated for-profit
health service providers. This encourages greater competitiveness
and improves access to quality health services.

CONCLUSION: TRANSITION UNDERWAY, PROGNOSIS UNKNOWN
--------------------------------------------- --


HANOI 00000370 008 OF 009


24. (U) Mirroring changes in the economic sector, Vietnam is
undergoing a marked switch from a vertically-oriented health care
system, typical of a developing country, to a market-oriented health
care system. This has produced a visible strain on fundamental
public health performance. In the last 25 years, the health care
system has handled infectious diseases of public health significance
well. In conjunction with a substantial reduction in poverty,
Vietnam can claim many other public health successes, including
increased longevity and the elimination of polio. Nevertheless,
even as Vietnam prepares to enter the ranks of middle income
nations, it continues to face many basic health systems challenges,
ranging from continued hospital overcrowding to a mounting burden of
chronic diseases, while trying to manage societal and behavioral
changes among its population as its economy continues to develop.

25. (SBU) As I described in the Part I cable (ref A), Vietnam looks
to the United States for technical advice on a range of subjects.
This has been true in health even before our current Embassy opened
its doors. In 2005, when you met with former Prime Minister Phan
Van Khai, his response to concerns from his Health Minister that
Vietnam spent too much on infrastructure and too little on health
care was telling. As you recall, he asked the United States to work
with him to "build a U.S.-run hospital in Vietnam" (quoted from ref
L). Although Vietnam needs new hospitals (and we spend a lot of
time facilitating conversations with American companies and NGOs in
this regard), this sentiment misses the mark with regard to what
Vietnam needs to do. It is relatively easy to replicate individual
elements of the U.S. health care system. However, Vietnam needs to
take a systemic approach to health care, which requires a different
form of technical assistance, the ability to understand the
strengths and weaknesses of the U.S. system, and the vision to adapt
solutions to uniquely Vietnamese circumstances.

26. (SBU) To best assist the GVN, international technical agencies
need to help its officials refine their overall approach to public
health. The Health Partnership Group (HPG), a quarterly meeting
hosted by the MOH, provides a forum for information exchange among
international donors and Vietnamese technical agencies. Over the
last two years, certain donors have begun to focus on the HPG as a
possible policy coordination entity for public health. We have
become intimately involved with the HPG, which we believe may
represent a nascent approach to tackling underlying policy issues,
central to both our cooperative health programs and to Vietnam
health sector reform. HPG may not be a perfect venue, due to
funding limitations, intra-GVN turf issues, and the inevitable
jockeying for position among international donors. Nevertheless,
Vietnam needs an overall public health vision and the HPG appears to
be the best starting place.

27. (SBU) The MOH has begun to tackle health care reform issues,
emphasizing re-organization, privatization of the health sector,
increased hospital capacity, better clinical training, and an
emphasis on high technology. However, progress remains slow and
unsteady. Indeed, Vietnam needs to consolidate and protect previous
public health gains, while looking for additional improvements. For
every success, such as mandatory helmet laws or increased pandemic
influenza preparedness, Vietnam faces many issues without easy or
quick solutions. U.S. assistance, largely focused on targeted,
disease-specific programs, has provided tangible benefits to the
people of Vietnam. We need to continue these collaborative efforts,
while assisting Vietnam to create a public health system responsive
to the needs of its populace.

28. (SBU) Once again, thank you for returning to Vietnam. I am
immensely proud of the health team here and their important work.
Your visit will be instrumental in defining where Vietnam is now,
where it is going, and how we might help advance the health agenda
here. Aiding Vietnam in tackling its key challenges is clearly in

HANOI 00000370 009 OF 009


our national interest.


MICHALAK

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New Zealand has congratulated the Iraqi government on the successful liberation of Mosul from ISIS after a long and hard-fought campaign. More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Current US Moves Against North Korea

If Martians visited early last week, they’d probably be scratching their heads as to why North Korea was being treated as a potential trigger for global conflict... More>>

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Gordon Campbell: On The Lessons From Corbyn’s Campaign

Leaving partisan politics aside – and ignoring Jeremy Corbyn’s sensational election campaign for a moment – it has to be said that Britain is now really up shit creek... More>>

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Another US Court: Fourth Circuit Rules Muslim Ban Discriminatory

ACLU: Step by step, point by point, the court laid out what has been clear from the start: The president promised to ban Muslims from the United States, and his executive orders are an attempt to do just that. More>>

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