I'm just back from a 15-day trip to Asia where I wasnt allowed access to blogs so I am playing catch-up with my blog posts...
I'm now in Vietnam with the same project that I was in India with: EPI-4. Four Swedish universities are collaborating with universities in India, China, Indonesia and Vietnam to promote evidence in policymaking to improve maternal and child health, malaria, TB and HIV/AIDS for disadvantaged (i.e. poor, rural, minorities, etc.). Just a small project! My role is to develop methodologies, work with post-doc students, and keep everybody on course. The best part is working with colleagues in these 4 countries, none of which I've visited before! It's a challenge to keep all of the cultural differences in working practices straight.
Vietnam has a hearty economic growth rate (GDP) of almost 7% (compare to Sweden, 5.5% and the sluggish U.S., 2.8%). So things are happening here. At the same time, they are facing the same problems that all the emerging economies are: wide gaps between urban and rural, ethnic mainstream and ethnic minorities. The "epidiological transition" is another aspect disturbing the Vietnamese government, and the other middle-income countries in the region. This is the state of having both a) major parts of the population exposed to infectious diseases associated with low-income countries, such as tuberculosis and b) rising rates of heart disease, diabetes, and mental illnesses such as suicide, mostly associated with high-income countries. Its an unenviable position for the Ministry of Health to have to deal with both malnutrition and overnutrition (i.e. obesity)!
I feel like a giant here as I am 2 heads taller than most women. For some reason, people like my hair here. Two women have come up and complimented me. I was only in Hanoi for 2 days. I will be back in November and hope to get out the countryside.