Vietnam, the easternmost country on the South East Asian Indochinese Peninsula, has grown rapidly over the past 30 years.

Alongside a growing economy, the population has grown to about 95 million in 2016. Life expectancy in Vietnam is 72 for males and 81 for females. Poverty rates have gradually declined, falling below six per cent in 2020.

From 1990 to 2015, the maternal mortality rate fell from 233 to 58.3 deaths per 100,000 live births and infant mortality dropped from 44 deaths per 1000 live births to 15—with no difference between male and female infants. Stunting has also significantly decreased over this period.

The impacts of COVID-19 slowed Vietnam’s economic progress, but aggressive government policy minimised the internal spread of the virus. Tourists from the United States and China were blocked early in February 2020, and a quasi-quarantine period in March and April 2020 helped to keep the total number of cases below 400.

Health challenges

According to the World Health Organization, the health challenges facing Vietnam include:

  • non-communicable diseases, which are the leading causes of death in Vietnam. Risk factors such as smoking, harmful alcohol use, obesity and physical inactivity are increasing.
  • malaria, which remains an issue in rural areas, though cases have decreased in the past decade.
  • tuberculosis, which is still one of the top 10 causes of death. In 2017, there were more than 124,000 cases, and 12,000 deaths.

As of June 10 2020, Vietnam’s total number of COVID-19 cases remains at 332. Of those affected, 316 have fully recovered. No one has died.

Image: PhD student Leanna Surrao conducts training for local health workers.

Burnet’s work

Burnet Institute researchers are playing a key role in a unique study aimed at malaria elimination in the Greater Mekong Region, where a steady rise in drug-resistant malaria is a serious problem. Led by Dr Jack Richards, the Burnet team has been working with local scientists and health workers along the Vietnam-Cambodia border in the use of highly sensitive tests that can detect low levels of malaria, as well as developing enhanced mapping and surveillance systems to detect hot spots of transmission.

Contact Details

For more information about our work in Vietnam, please contact:

Burnet Institute

[email protected]




Current Projects

  • Gender Counts

  • Impact of declining transmission on immunity and risk of malaria rebound

  • Optima HIV Modelling

  • Optima Nutrition Modelling

  • Rapid review of maternal health recommendations related to the COVID-19 pandemic

  • Sexual and reproductive health in Asia and the Pacific