Bulletin of the World Health Organization

From research evidence to policy: mental health care in Viet Nam

Trudy Harpham & Tran Tuan



The use of evidence-based policy is gaining attention in developing countries. Frameworks to analyse the process of developing policy and to assess whether evidence is likely to influence policy-makers are now available. However, the use of evidence in policies on caring for people with mental illness in developing countries has rarely been analysed.


This case study from Viet Nam illustrates how evidence can be used to influence policy. We summarize evidence on the burden of mental illness in Viet Nam and describe attempts to influence policy-makers. We also interviewed key stakeholders to ascertain their views on how policy could be affected. We then applied an analytical framework to the case study; this framework included an assessment of the political context in which the policy was developed, the links between organizations needed to influence policy, external influences on policy-makers and the nature of evidence required to influence policy-makers.

Local Setting

The burden of mental illness among various population groups was large but there were few policies aimed at providing care for people with mental illness, apart from policies for providing hospital-based care for people with severe mental illness.

Relevant changes

The national plan proposes to incorporate screening for mental illness among women and children in order to implement early detection and treatment.

Lessons learned

Evidence on the burden of mental ill-health in Viet Nam is patchy and research in this area is still relatively undeveloped. Nonetheless the policy process was influenced by the evidence from research because key links between organizations and policy-makers were established at an early stage, the evidence was regarded as rigorous and the timing was opportune.