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Returning to Vietnam – Building on Collaborations in Cancer Control and Research

, by Paul Pearlman

Vietnam kicks off a “Month of Cancer Prevention” campaign at the start of the national stakeholder meeting.

I recently had the pleasure of returning to Vietnam for a little over a week. The focus of this trip was my attendance and presentation at the 9th US-Vietnam Joint Committee Meeting on Science and Technology Cooperation (JCM), held in Ho Chi Minh City by the Ministry of Science and Technology, and at a national cancer stakeholder meeting in Hanoi, held by the Ministry of Health. I also had the pleasure of reconnecting with several dear colleagues, and planning future collaborations at side meetings in both cities.

At the JCM I participated on the Health Working Group, representing the US National Cancer Institute (NCI). The discussion was vigorous and the Vietnamese delegation was very much interested and invested in each of the topics we raised. The meeting presented us with high-level buy-in for upcoming programs and meetings. I gave two brief talks - one on cancer control/research and another on tobacco. Other presenters discussed collaboration on the Global Health Security Agenda, non-communicable diseases writ large, coastal medicine, and global health diplomacy.

On December 8th, the Vietnamese National Institute for Cancer Control held an ambitious national cancer stakeholder meeting at the Fortuna Hotel, Hanoi. This meeting was one of the priority action items laid out by a multi-sectoral Vietnamese delegation to a regional Cancer Control Leadership Forum lead by NCI in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 2014.

The meeting was more than a year in the planning and execution and included more than 300 Vietnamese doctors, academics, politicians, and representatives from the media. The Ministry of Health, Ministry of Finance, and Social Welfare were represented at high levels. Other ministries were also represented, including the Ministry of Science and Technology, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Property and Environment, and Ministry of Planning and Investment. Members of the National Assembly who oversee health expenditures were also present.  

Eric Krakauer, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and I were invited speakers among a distinguished group of Vietnamese luminaries. I spoke about the US experience in national cancer planning and implementation, focusing on our national partnerships and collaborations with industry, NGOs, and academia. Dr. Krakauer presented a vision for how Vietnam can move forward with strengthening its palliative care programs and policies.

Content included unpublished results of a cost analysis for oncology care in Vietnam (part of a larger study that is taking place across the region), the current state of cancer, availability of services, and the state of the national plan. Key themes that came up in discussion included partnerships, national networks for oncology care, universal health coverage, early detection, registration/surveillance, and palliative care.

Vietnam will prioritize follow-up to this meeting over the coming months, and will produce a report of its findings.  Meanwhile, NCI has offered technical support on key cancer control topics, beginning with a regional follow-up Cancer Control Leadership Forum in Singapore this upcoming March.

Overall, it was a productive and enjoyable trip and, as always, it was hard to leave this beautiful country.

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