Phan Linh, Communications Manager, EpiC Vietnam
Rachel Coley, Technical Advisor and Project Manager, EpiC Vietnam
Tran Quy, Project Specialist, EpiC Vietnam 

In the bustling field of health care, a momentary decision can change the course of someone’s life. For health care workers, this responsibility is a heavy load that can take a toll on their mental health. In fact, studies have shown that health care workers have a high risk of experiencing mental health issues and occupational health impacts including chronic stress, vicarious trauma, and burnout.1 

The mental well-being of health care professionals is not just a personal concern, it’s fundamental to ensuring quality patient care. Several Meeting Targets and Maintaining Epidemic Control (EpiC) project countries have used FHI 360’s 8Cs Model of Collaborative Consultation for Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Programs to address the mental health and psychosocial support needs of health care workers. This model emphasizes the key elements of collaboration, community engagement, capacity building, coordination, communication, creativity, continuity, and cultural responsiveness in designing and implementing these programs. Projects in Paraguay, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka have likewise embraced strategies based on the model. In Vietnam, the 8Cs provided a framework for considering how to create a sustainable program that addresses occupational mental health. This global work was recently highlighted by Workplace Health and Safety, along with Vietnam’s earlier efforts on mental health during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.2   

More recently in Vietnam, the Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) Department of Health (DOH) understands these intersections. In partnership with the DOH, the EpiC project — funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development — is bolstering the quality of life for the city’s 60,000 health care workers, which in turn will strengthen health care for the city’s 9,500,000 inhabitants. 

However, commitment alone to address mental health is not enough. A recent EpiC-led survey of 382 health care workers in Vietnam showed that misinformation, stigma around mental health, and hesitancy to access services remain major barriers.  

This is why EpiC and the HCMC DOH are undertaking a three-pillar approach: 1) education and stigma reduction; 2) improvement of working environments; and 3) convenient support and linkage to services.   

Under pillar 1, EpiC, the HCMC DOH, and the HCMC Center for Disease Control organized online events to provide psychoeducation, highlight best practices for health care workers across the city, and showcase leadership’s commitment to enhancing the mental wellness of these essential frontline workers. The first two events combined drew over 5,000 viewers online and more than 100 facility-based watch parties. In addition, facility-based communication events — designed by hospital staff and funded by EpiC — create fun, interactive opportunities to boost awareness and knowledge. An upcoming awareness campaign will also help dispel misconceptions and promote understanding of mental health among health care workers. 

Dr. To Thi Kim Phung, Vice Director of Binh Chanh Hospital, and Dr. Nguyen Thi Kim Chi, Vice Director of Nha Be Hospital, enjoy an activity during the mental health leadership training. Photo by EpiC Vietnam. 

To address mental health as an occupational health concern, pillar 2 is focused on improving the hospital work environment. In April, 56 health leaders from the city’s largest hospitals completed a training program to build their understanding of the impacts of the institutional and workplace environment on staff mental health and promote mental well-being for staff within their facilities. “[Now] we’re exploring methods to strengthen team cohesion, fostering support and connections among team members,” said Dr. Tran Phu Manh Sieu, Director of Go Vap District Hospital. In addition, the project is providing wellness rooms for staff at the DOH and two high-capacity hospitals. These rooms provide a space for health care workers to find respite, access resources, and connect with peers.  

Staff and health care providers at Ho Chi Minh City Rehab Hospital engage with each other in the Wellness Room, launched in May with the support of USAID, EpiC, and the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Health. Photo by EpiC Vietnam 

Although widespread mental health counseling is outside the scope of the project, pillar 3 is focused on helping connect health care workers to the support they need. In collaboration with local experts from the public and private sector, the DOH and EpiC are creating a cadre of well-being navigators who will undergo specialized training to educate, share resources, provide psychological first aid, and link colleagues to care that meets their needs and preferences. 

“Ensuring optimal mental health among health care workers is crucial for enhancing the effectiveness and quality of health care services delivered to patients”

Dr. Nguyen Van Vinh Chau, Vice Director of the HCMC DOH 

The HCMC DOH is blazing a new path for government investment in mental well-being for health care workers. Citywide strategies focused on mental well-being for the public in general, and for health care workers in particular, have codified this commitment. With EpiC’s support, this work is building a strong foundation for future efforts.  

Dr. Tran Quoc Hung, Director of District 8 Hospital, talks with a peer during the mental health leadership training. Photo by EpiC Vietnam.

Featured image: Dr. Nguyen Bach Boi Linh, Le Van Thinh Hospital, exemplifies care and compassion towards her colleagues. Photo by EpiC Vietnam. 


  1. Shanafelt, T. D., Boone, S., Tan, L., Dyrbye, L. N., Sotile, W., Satele, D., … & Oreskovich, M. R. (2015). Burnout and satisfaction with work-life balance among US physicians relative to the general US population. Archives of Internal Medicine, 172(18), 1377-1385.  
  1. Headrick EG, McCarten-Gibbs M, Coley R, et al. Care for Staff: A Novel Technical Assistance Approach to Promote Occupational Mental Health Among Healthcare Workers in Lower- and Middle-Income Country Settings. Workplace Health & Safety. 2024;72(4):144-152. doi:10.1177/21650799241247154