22, 2001, Gazette)
for better social services and health
Dr. Lan Gien (L)
and Dr. Elizabeth Dow at the Childrens Peace Village in
School of Nursing has been involved in improving the quality
of nursing education in Vietnam for the last four years, and
now a joint project with the School of Social Work is targeting
the area of social services and health.
Dr. Elizabeth Dow, Social Work, and Dr. Lan Gien, Nursing, have
joined forces to better the quality of life in rural Vietnam
by improving social services for women, children, the elderly
and disabled people. Dr. Ken Barter and Sharon Taylor of the
School of Social Work are also members of the team. The five-year
project has received a grant of $749,000 from the Canadian International
Development Agency (CIDA), administered by the Association of
Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC).
Dr. Gien is already well-acquainted with working in Vietnam.
She heads up a four-member team of nursing faculty from Memorial
who work with the Secondary Technical Medical School One in Hai
Duong province to train nursing teachers who, in turn, teach
courses to nurses in Vietnam in areas such as mental health and
primary health care. Dr. Gien said that during her work in Vietnam
the Vietnamese government expressed a need to improve the training
of social workers.
When I came
to Memorial in 1998, Lan told me about the work she was doing
in rural Vietnam, said Dr. Dow. We linked up and
had an opportunity last April to go to Hanoi and meet with faculty
at the College of Labour and Social Affairs.
woman in the streets of Hanoi, Vietnam.
looked at their curriculum with them. It has a theoretical and
sociological focus and lacks practical social work perspective.
Vietnamese officials have identified and targeted specific social
needs, such as reducing the poverty which is a result of the
increasing gap between the rich and poor in a market economy.
The poverty is partly due to the fact that many people have been
maimed during the war, some from landmines, while others have
been born with deformities from the effect of Agent Orange. This
has resulted in a large population of disabled individuals who
Despite the extreme poverty and deprivation, the Vietnamese
people are very resilient. The population has grown rapidly within
its very small land mass from 40 million to 78 million people.
Unlike Canada, Vietnam does not offer extensive social programs
such as health plans and financial safety nets like social assistance.
They are very different, culturally and economically,
said Dr. Dow.
Under the CIDA-funded project, Drs. Dow and Gien will facilitate
how social work is taught and implemented in Vietnam. Using a
community development approach, social work curriculum that is
culturally-sensitive and relevant will be developed with the
College of Labour and Social Affairs.
Part of the Memorial University project will involve facilitating
additional training for faculty from the Vietnamese college.
Many have psychology or sociology degrees and would like
to earn social work degrees, said Dr. Dow. We may
develop some sort of model similar to the one we have with the
Inuit, developing programs for people within their own environment
who can then become teachers.
Dr. Gien said, There are a large number of people working
in the area of social work, but their qualifications need to
be upgraded. This project will provide additional knowledge and
skills for social work teachers and also provide workshops to
improve the qualifications of those who are working in rural
The project also includes a community outreach component by establishing
a clinical institute where students and teachers can apply the
new knowledge and skills to directly serve the disadvantaged
groups of surrounding communities. Health education will be integrated
into all activities to improve health and self-care of these
A planning mission will be held in Vietnam within the next few
months to finalize details about how the project will be implemented.
The emphasis has to be on issues for women, children, elderly
people and disabled people, said Dr. Dow. We want
to focus on particularly vulnerable groups.