A study published in 2020 on the National Center for Biotechnological Information (NCBI) website looks at Vietnam’s climate change health risk, the vulnerability of its citizens, and the capacity of its health sectors to manage these risks.
According to The Global Climate Risk Index 2020, Vietnam ranks as the sixth most vulnerable country to climate change and extreme events between 1999 to 2019.
Vietnam is vulnerable to sea-level rise and extreme weather events, which can cause heat-related diseases, waterborne infections, vector-borne diseases, air-borne diseases, mental health consequences, and health food shortages. Increases in the number of climate-related diseases can add more pressure to its health care system.
Climate change will increase the occurrence of natural disasters and extreme heat in most of the country. An increase by 100 cm of sea levels could affect around 17% of the residents living in the Red River Delta, 1.5% of the Central coastal provinces, 17.8% of Ho Chi Minh City, and 38.9% of the Mekong Delta.
Vietnam’s health sector’s adaptive capacity is an important determinant of the community’s vulnerability to climate change.
However, some of the country’s health system, especially in rural areas, lacks adequate equipment and medicine for first aid or treatment, particularly waterborne diseases outbreaks during and after heavy rains. Some isolated facilities can even get severely damaged from some extreme events.
The health sector needs to develop a long-term plan to reduce its vulnerabilities to climate change.
The study conducted a Vulnerability and Adaption (V&A) assessment to identify and prepare for the health risks. The V&A identified the current and future risks of climate-sensitive disease in Vietnam.
The V&A assessment shows that:
- Dengue fever, diarrhea, and influenza were common diseases causing a significant number of illnesses and deaths.
- Vietnam has been facing many risks of climate-sensitive health and the sensitivity level is “high”, previous studies also show the same finding.
- The level of exposure to climate-related risks in Vietnam’s health sector between 2013 to 2017 was “high” to “very high”, but its health sector is very low. The high level of exposure can be attributed to the country’s geographic feature – having a long coastal line and demographic – over 90 million, high density, and an aging population), and socioeconomic characteristics.
Due to its high exposure to risk and its health system’s low adaptative capacity, experts and stakeholders, through a Multi-Criteria Analysis, developed the following adaptation solutions or programs that focused on “strengthening the health staff’s capacity, improving awareness and capacity of the community, developing and implementing early warning systems, promoting intersectoral and international collaboration, strengthening scientific research, adapting health services to improve management of climate-sensitive diseases, and developing and refining regulations, policies, and mechanisms. The solutions identified support the recommendation of WHO and other studies.”
The study was the first V&A assessment in Vietnam. It provided a comprehensive picture of its climate change risk on the emergence and development of common diseases and the vulnerability and adaptive capacity of its health sectors to manage these risks.
V&A results helped formulate appropriate policies and programs for climate adaptation and climate change response.
More importantly, the assessment yielded evidence-based information for developing the country’s National Health Adaptation Plan.
To read the entire study, click the link below:
Tuyet Hanh, T. T., Huong, L., Huong, N., Linh, T., Quyen, N. H., Nhung, N., Ebi, K., Cuong, N. D., Van Nhu, H., Kien, T. M., Hales, S., Cuong, D. M., Tho, N., Toan, L. Q., Bich, N. N., & Van Minh, H. (2020). Vietnam Climate Change and Health Vulnerability and Adaptation Assessment, 2018. Environmental health insights, 14, 1178630220924658. https://doi.org/10.1177/1178630220924658