A New Global Health Partnership in Vietnam

The Dickey Center's Global Health Initiative has been actively developing a rich portfolio of partnerships with the twin aims of expanding student engagement and research collaboration. This summer GHI Program Manager, Jessica Friedman, journeyed to Hanoi, Vietnam to meet partners at Population Health and Development (PHAD) to conduct a site assessment and experience first-hand the impact of the research studies three students had been working on that summer.

PHAD has been a research collaborator with Dartmouth-Hitchcock's Joseph Rosen, MD and UCLA's Peter Katona, MD working on a mobile disease surveillance system. The system has been designed to report live epidemiological data of specific infectious diseases, as collected by commune health centers, through a text messaging system. Based on Dartmouth's ongoing collaborative work with PHAD, program managers at both institutions quickly identified two studies for students work on over the summer of 2014: the mMOM project on child maternal health and a mental health project.

The mMOM project, is focused on assessing the impact of a SMS-based program to improve the maternal health of ethnic minorities who live in the Thai Nguyen province, one of the more hard-to-reach, mountainous areas in Vietnam. Currently, these ethnic minorities have poor maternal and child health compared to the majority of the Vietnamese population, and under the mMOM project, expectant mothers and new mothers will receive SMS messages with health information and appointment reminders to ultimately improve the health of the mother, fetus, and newborn. Two students, Tiffany Hoang, MED'17 and Angie Lee '17 worked on this project.

The goal of the Mental Health project is to implement some changes at the primary health care level that will improve the detection and treatment of mental health disorders. This summer William Zhu '15 worked on a feasibility study to assess whether or not the proposed implementation protocol is a good fit for the Vietnamese healthcare system. He is also assisting in the publication of a systematic review of mental health indicators used to analyze common mental disorders in Vietnam or on Vietnamese populations. The article will be published in the International Journal of Mental Health Systems.

While in Vietnam, Jessica met with lead researchers at PHAD, the leadership of the National Hospital of Pediatrics in Hanoi and worked observed site visits to commune and district health centers in Thai Nguyen Province in connection with the mMOM study. It is clear from the quality of research and level of student engagement with these projects and PHAD's rich project portfolio; there will be ample opportunity to expand our collaboration in the future.