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Can the burden of chronic lung disease in Vietnam be reduced?

Monday, February 06, 2023

Do Van Manh's chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) had become so bad that everyday tasks were a struggle. He was going to hospital nearly every month for treatment.

Things changed dramatically in 2021 when he joined Woolcock Vietnam's VCAPS program.

"I got the inhaler and immediately felt relieved. The following year I only had two exacerbations that required hospital visits. So I’m really grateful because my condition got so much better thanks to the treatments," he says.

Vietnam has high rates of lung diseases such as COPD and asthma, due in part to the country's high rates of smoking and air pollution. Yet, despite this prevalence, people with chronic lung disease are often diagnosed late. And when they are diagnosed, it's often hard for people to access ongoing care. Without good management of their condition, many people end up needing regular hospital visits, which places a burden on the country's health system.

The VCAPS program aims to address these issues.

VCAPS has used a combination of treatment, counselling and a smoking quitline to improve the lung health of patients in four provinces of Vietnam.

Woolcock Vietnam's Professor Greg Fox explains: "We've been doing a program of research which helps us understand how we can reduce smoking rates Vietnam – to understand who smokes, why they smoke, and to test the effectiveness of strategies to try and stop people from smoking."

After running for five years, and involving more than 6,000 patients, the results of the program will be released in 2023.

"We're going to be finding out whether [the program] measurably reduces the flare ups in people who have chronic lung disease," says Professor Fox. "And if it does, then that would guide policymakers to scale it up in the future."

For Do Van Manh, the program has already been a success. While there is no cure for COPD, being part of VCAPS has shown him that it's possible to manage his symptoms and enjoy a better quality of life.

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