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Open Access Research article

Mental health priorities in Vietnam: a mixed-methods analysis

Maria Niemi1*, Huong T Thanh23, Tran Tuan4 and Torkel Falkenberg15

Author Affiliations

1 Unit for Studies of Integrative Health Care, Division of Nursing, Department of Neurobiology, Caring Sciences and Society, Karolinska Institutet, (Alfred Nobels Allée 23), Huddinge, (141 83), Sweden

2 Department of Education, Hanoi Medical University, (1 Ton That Tung) Hanoi, (Dong Da), Vietnam

3 Non-Communicable Disease Control Unit, Viet Nam Ministry of Health, (138A Giang Vo), Hanoi, (Ba Dinh), Vietnam

4 Research and Training Centre for Community Development, (No. 39, lane 255, Vong street) Hanoi, (Hai Ba Trung), Vietnam

5 Research Unit, Vidar Clinic Foundation, (Ytterjärna), Järna, (15391) Sweden

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BMC Health Services Research 2010, 10:257  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-10-257

Published: 2 September 2010

Abstract

Background

The Mental Health Country Profile is a tool that was generated by the International Mental Health Policy and Services Project to inform policy makers, professionals and other key stakeholders about important issues which need to be considered in mental health policy development. The Mental Health Country Profile contains four domains, which include the mental health context, resources, provision and outcomes. We have aimed to generate a Mental Health Country Profile for Vietnam, in order to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the Vietnamese mental health situation, in order to inform future reform efforts and decision-making.

Methods

This study used snowball sampling to identify informants for generating a Mental Health Country Profile for Vietnam, and the data gathering was done through semi-structured interviews and collection of relevant reports and documents. The material from the interviews and documents was analysed according to qualitative content analysis.

Results

Marked strengths of the Vietnam mental health system are the aims to move toward community management and detection of mental illness, and the active involvement of several multilateral organizations and NGOs. However, there are a number of shortages still found, including the lack of treatment interventions apart from medications, the high proportion of treatments to be paid out-of-pocket, prominence of large tertiary psychiatric hospitals, and a lack of preventative measures or mental health information to the public.

Conclusions

At the end of this decade, mental health care in Vietnam is still characterised by unclear policy and poor critical mass especially within the governmental sector. This initial attempt to map the mental health situation of Vietnam suffers from a number of limitations and should be seen as a first step towards a comprehensive profile.