Towards a Health Education Web Database for the Public in Vietnam


Vietnam is a country in Southeast Asia with a population of 86,206,000. With a gross national income per capita of $3,300, its people face many challenges in health. The average Vietnamese spends $221 per year on healthcare. It is thus not surprising that life expectancy (69 for male, 75 for female) and deaths per live birth (17 per 1,000) in Vietnam are below international standards. According to the World Health Organization, some of the top diseases in Vietnam include diarrhea, hypertension, tuberculosis, dengue, and malaria, with risk factors for disease morbidity that include chronic diseases, child malnutrition, lack of water sanitation, and tobacco and alcohol consumption [1].


It is widely accepted that health education is a valuable tool in disease prevention and health improvement. In developed countries, many patients, their relatives and friends turn to the internet to search for information to learn about diseases. In the United States, for example, it is well documented that many patients with disability or chronic diseases are turning to the internet for information and as a result, are changing the ways in which physicians interact with patients [2]. While the concern for potential harm from inaccurate health information on the web is valid, studies have also shown that accurate medical information from the internet can improve health care and health outcomes [3].


In Vietnam, the internet’s popularity has increased exponentially within the last 7 years. Currently, there are approximately 25% of the population who are internet users, the majority of which are students from the middle, high school, and college levels [4]. While the number of internet users has exponentially increased, there are limited informational websites in Vietnamese. A Google search with “health information” in Vietnamese yields approximately 500,000 results, while the same search in English yields 166,000,000 sites.


The internet can be a valuable tool in health education. With Vietnam’s growing interest in the internet, there is a need for more informational websites. Here, we attempt to build a health information web database in Vietnamese and English, with the hypothesis that accurate health information can improve health conditions in Vietnam.


Website Outline (Setting/Methods):

There will be 4 main sections on the website, with the following themes:

1.       Health education: this section is targeted to those with curiosity about illness and how medicine attempts to explain illnesses. We will focus on general explanations on how one gets sick, how illnesses are alleviated, how drugs attempt to cure or relieve symptoms, and how to prevent common illnesses. Specifically: how infectious agents cause disease and how non-infectious illnesses such as cancer arise, how antibiotics and other classes of drugs work, and the role of sanitation and vaccines in preventing disease. Incorporation of the above information will be used to apply to every-day illnesses such as colds, flues, stomaches, and headaches.

2.       Health Issues: here, we will attempt to address the major health issues in Vietnam through both health education and literature review. For instance, the issue of traffic accidents can be addressed by: public discussion and education about the importance of motorcycle helmet use, with the latest data from studies involving helmet use and traffic accidents in Vietnam. This section will thus serve two purposes: to promote awareness of current health issues in Vietnam, and to help facilitate discussion between health professionals and the general population.

3.       Cooperation: this section serves to recruit others to join to build a more informative website. Potential recruits will be healthcare professionals from other disciplines (such as those in dentistry and pharmacy arenas) to join to create a more comprehensive health information website. Website designers and multimedia experts will also be targeted to help “translate” the displayed information into that which is easier to understand. These IT experts will be encouraged to use multimedia methods such as animations and illustrations to make the information more understandable.

4.       Discussion: this theme will be present throughout the website. Its main goal is to engage the audience into having a conversation with the healthcare professionals by providing a template on which the audience can ask questions and provide feedback. Discussion between health professionals will also be encouraged, with the goal of facilitating the exchange of ideas and bringing out the most up-to-date literature relating health issues in Vietnam. A month featured article will help provide the basis for discussion.

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