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Myanmar: New government, better health?

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Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi attends a parliamentary meeting at the Lower House of Parliament in Naypyitaw, July 9, 2012.
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Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun

Myanmar’s historic election last year brought an end to more than 50 years of military rule, ushering in the National League for Democracy party led by Aung San Suu Kyi. A new administration brings with it an opportunity to rehabilitate the country’s fragile health system, experts wrote in the Lancet.
 
In the editorial, Stanford health economist Karen Eggleston and co-authors Thant Sun Htoo, Ngoc Minh Pham and Phyu Phyu Thin Zaw call for innovative leadership in Myanmar’s public healthcare system, which is currently facing substantial challenges and inequalities. Creating policies that equitably allocate health resources should be a key goal of the administration that has set out to achieve universal health coverage by 2030. This would not only work to raise public health but also build much-needed trust between the population and government, they said.
 
Pham and Zaw are both former visiting fellows of the Asia Health Policy Program, who spent the 2014-15 academic year working on research activities at the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center. Last July, Zaw wrote an op-ed in The Diplomat highlighting a doctor-led campaign against the “militarization” of the Ministry of Health called the “Black Ribbon Movement.” The movement is comprised of doctors and healthcare staff who are protesting the appointment of military staff to top health administration positions.
 
The Lancet's focus on healthcare in Myanmar coincided with the global commemoration of Universal Health Coverage Day, an annual day that urges greater action toward ensuring equal access to essential health services worldwide: http://universalhealthcoverageday.org/.

The Stanford Program on International and Cross-Cultural Education also interviewed Zaw while at Stanford. In this video released on March 10, Zaw highlights the changes Myanmar has already undertaken to reform its healthcare sytem and the challenges the country still faces.

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