Responsible agencies should pay more attention to promoting public health in schools
Basing on that, in mid-December, the Minister of Education and Training approved a capacity-building training program for school medical staff.
According to the Ministry of Education and Training, roughly 75.3 percent of schools across the country has a special room to take care of students’ health, but the number of medical rooms meeting the requirements in terms of the area only accounts for 49.9 percent. In addition, only 43.4 percent of schools have first aid equipment for students.
Worse, most schools lack school medical staff; particularly in Ho Chi Minh City. The majority of medical staff in schools in the southern largest city are now part-time teachers whereas the percentage of people with medical intermediate training and above is very low. A health worker at a primary school in HCMC’s District 5 said that after more than 10 years in charge of public health work, her total income is less than VND 6 million a month, not enough to cover her life. Moreover, working conditions are still inadequate as schools are not well equipped with oxygen tanks, and first aid tools to handle sudden severe cases.
According to Dr. Nguyen Nho Huy, Deputy Director of the Ministry of Education and Training’s Department of Physical Education, for a long time, health care in schools has not been paid due attention because of inappropriate regimes and policies for health workers, so the roles and responsibilities of medical staff have not been fully promoted.
Dr. Do Thien Hai, Deputy Director of the Center for Tropical Diseases in the Hanoi-based National Children's Hospital, said that no management software is one of the inadequacies in the management and monitoring of students' health currently; thus, student's medical history is mainly reported by their parents. Therefore, when a student has abnormal health symptoms, the primary health worker has only one way to check that student's health record book, even though the declared information may not be clear.
Through monitoring the management and care of students' health in schools, Dr. Do Thien Hai suggested that schools should work closely with the preventive medicine center to get information about those infected with infectious diseases; thereby, healthcare workers in schools can proactively take preventive measures, minimizing the risk of spreading other students in the classroom.
The Ministry of Education and Training said that it has just coordinated with the Ministry of Health to draft a capacity-building program for key health workers in schools. Local administrations continue to recruit them as medical staff in schools. In 2023, the Ministry of Health will continue to coordinate with the Ministry of Education and Training to amend Joint Circular No. 13 stipulating employment positions, functions, and tasks of medical workers in schools.
At the same time, the Ministry of Education and Training also amends Circular No. 16/2017/TT-BGDĐT stipulating the framework of employment positions in public general education institutions, which stipulates policies for teachers working as health care workers. Explaining the need for these amendments, Dr. Le Van Tuan of the Ministry of Education and Training’s Department of Physical Education said that current primary health workers have the same job requirements as a teacher as they are responsible for communicating about health and medical care and giving advice to students and parents. Therefore, it is necessary to complete the documents and regulations on policies as well as to arrange and consolidate the local health system associated with grassroots health care in the locality.
According to Dr. Nguyen Thi Hong Diem, Deputy Head of the Department of Non-communicable Disease Control under the Department of Preventive Medicine, schools have so far mainly paid attention to food safety for students, but have not paid due attention to the importance of maintaining the quality of school meals including building a balanced and healthy diet.
At the same time, specialist community publichealth nurses should increase communication of many contemporary problems such as students' mental health disorders, abuse of e-cigarettes, excessive salt diets, lack of vegetables and fruits, and lack of physical activity lead to the risk of developing diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, high blood pressure, overweight and obesity.
Health workers can provide schooling on these above-mentioned issues during regular school hours, extracurricular activities, class activities, activities under the flag, posted on the school bulletin, or through loudspeaker and contests.
According to a study by the Vietnam Public Health Association, by 2020, the percentage of teenagers aged 15-24 years old in two big cities, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, who are using e-cigarettes is 7.3. percent. In addition, up to 33.96 percent of students drink carbonated soft drinks more than once a day while around 17 percent of students have a habit of eating fast food more than 3 days a week. Furthermore, up to 43.07 percent of students lack physical activities.