September 30, 2011

VIET NAM: Only 5.32 per cent of Viet Nam's elderly are in good health

HA NOI, Viet Nam / VietNamNet / News / September 30, 2011

VietNamNet Bridge – Only 5.32 per cent of Viet Nam's elderly are in good health, the Centre for Ageing Support and Community Development has reported.

Voluntary doctors provide eye examination for the elderly at the Thong Nhat Park in Ha Noi. (Photo: VNS)

Health care for the elderly is one of the key targets under the National Programme for the Elderly 2011-15.

The health of around 1,100 elderly has been prioritised under a pilot model of consultation for the country's aged population run by Hoa Thuong Commune's Elderly Association in the northern province of Thai Nguyen.

Association Chairwoman Nguyen Thanh Thuy said after one year of operation, the model has helped local elderly people - mainly farmers - to understand symptoms and prevention of high and low blood pressure and heart disease.

"Farmers have little chance to access medical knowledge, so they know very little about these medical problems," she said.

Meanwhile the association's survey figures show about 95 per cent of local elderly have contracted chronic diseases, including 54 per cent registering bone and joint problems and 46.1 per cent having contracted respiratory diseases, she said.

"The association informs elderly people about blood pressure, diabetes and heart issues and instructs them to eat healthily to prevent disease," she said.

The association has also launched a programme for young volunteer care givers to visit the elderly at home.

This is one of many pilot programmes that are set up and funded by the Viet Nam National Committee on Ageing.

Despite initial success, a lack of infrastructure, funding and human resources to operate the programme effectively have been blamed for difficulties the association has faced.

Each volunteer receives only VND120,000 (US$5) each month and therefore do not devote themselves to the job, Thuy said.

Ten medical staff including one doctor in the commune's medical centre have gone out of their way to monitor the health of more than 1,100 elderly and nearly 11,000 local people, she said.

The Viet Nam Elderly Association and civil society organisations have found some solutions to improve the programme, a Viet Nam Association of the Elderly spokesperson said.

If successful, the programme is expected to be endorsed nation-wide as part of a plan to pay more attention to the health of the elderly, who now account for 10 per cent of the national population, he said.

Figures from the General Statistics Office show the number of elderly will grow to 16.8 per cent of the national population by 2029.

Up to 70 per cent of the elderly now have little or no savings and only 20 per cent receive a pension or social welfare, with 73 per cent of the aged population living in rural areas.

Le Van Nhan, from the Viet Nam Association of the Elderly said, "it's time to pay more attentions to the elderly," adding that very few programmes for the elderly had been set up and only half of the nation's elderly have health insurance cards.

The Viet Nam Association of the Elderly has co-operated with the Viet Nam National Committee for the Elderly to compile documents to form and implement nation-wide aged-care policies, said association representative Pham Tuyet Nhung.

In a related move, the association responded to the International Day of Older Persons on October 1 by calling on civil organisations to do more to help older people access social and medical services.

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