Pathfinder Organizes Workshop on Policies for Ethnic Minority Students in Medical Education in Viet Nam

Pathfinder has been actively engaged in Health Human Resource Development policy dialogue in the health sector. Together with development partners, it has supported various policy initiatives in improvement of health regulatory framework including policies to enhance the ethnic minority health workforce in mountainous and ethnic minority regions. Having more ethnic minority health staff serving their community has been long considered as an effective and sustainable approach to improve quality and access to services to ethnic minority populations.

On July 17th, 2012 Pathfinder collaborated with the Parliamentary Committee for Social Affairs to organize a workshop to review the Health Human Resource Development policies under implementation for ethnic minority students in medical education. The workshop was held under the framework of Pathfinder’s “Improving Health Care for Ethnic Minority Populations” project funded by Atlantic Philanthropies, and included a review of preferential policies to enhance enrollment, recruitment and retention of ethnic minority students in medical education and services. Amendments and new policy formulations were offered in an attempt to further improve impact in this area.

Pathfinder Organizes Workshop on Preferential Policies for Ethnic Minority Students in Medical Education in Viet Nam

More than 60 participants from organizations and agencies at both national and sub-national levels attended this event. They included deputies of the National Assembly (e.g. the Ethnic Minority Council, Parliamentary Committee for Social Affairs, and standing executive deputies of Provincial People’s Councils), representatives of ministerial agencies (e.g. Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Investment and Planning, Institute for Health Policy and Strategy, School of Public Health, and Central Committee for Ethnic Affairs), representatives of medical universities and colleges that are training ethnic minority students, as well as representatives of the provincial health services and provincial board on ethnic affairs of project partners. The event was also attended by donors and development partners.

To prepare for this event, Pathfinder provided technical and financial support to the Central Committee for Ethnic Affairs, the agency mandated to take charge of policy advice and monitoring of ethnic affairs, to carry out an assessment (from April-June 2012) on the status on implementation of the preferential policies for ethnic minority students in medical education enrollment, recruitment and retention. The findings of this assessment together with the reports of government agencies at national and sub-national levels laid a foundation for vivid discussions on achievements as well as challenges and inadequacies in these policies and their implementation. Participants also brought up different recommendations for policy amendments and improvements.

The findings shared at the workshop showed that significant progress was made. Among them was the acknowledgement of the impact of these policies in improving and consolidating the health workforce at different levels in mountainous and ethnic minority regions. This has allowed greater access to health care for ethnic minority populations. On the other hand, they also pinpointed various issues and challenges in the implementation of preferential policies for ethnic minority students to enroll, study well, and be well retained. Among others, there are issues to address such as limited coordination and collaboration among national and sub-national agencies in the process of selection and recruitment of eligible ethnic minority students, lack of provincial strategic plans in recruitment and utilization of ethnic minority graduated students, unwillingness of provincial agencies to recruit the graduated ethnic minority students for fear of low quality, shrinking trends in quotas for ethnic minority students to benefit from preferential policies, weak motivation among training institutions to train ethnic minority students due to low level of education of ethnic minority students, and insufficient funds to train ethnic minority groups in school. The preferential regimes are not sufficient enough to motivate health staff working in ethnic minority and mountainous areas.

The participants actively discussed the findings and made recommendations to Parliamentary Committee for Social Affairs’ consideration and further discussion at the National Assembly. The Parliamentary Committee for Social Affairs leadership acknowledged and thanked Pathfinder for their technical and financial support in bringing this issue on its agenda. It has been also acknowledged that the policy issue of enhanced enrollment of ethnic minority students and better recruitment and retention of an ethnic minority workforce should be addressed in a wider context of Health Human Resource Development at the Committee level. Therefore, the Committee will see this as a priority task for the next two years.

As a follow-up, Pathfinder will continue to support the leadership in each province partner under the project to look at the issues specific to the respective provinces and recommend improvements. The Parliamentary Committee for Social Affairs will support in monitoring the progress of the work in the provinces and help organize another workshop to inform the different Committees of the National Assembly and share the result with other provinces.

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