Environmental, Social and Governance

Better Health Programme South East Asia

Providing technical assistance in Southeast Asian countries to tackle the burden of non-communicable diseases.


Firm: PwC South East Asia Consulting

Industry: Government and public sector, Healthcare

Setting the scene

Non-communicable diseases (NCD), such as heart disease, diabetes and mental health conditions, are a major cause of ill health and death worldwide. This group of conditions kill 41 million people each year, equivalent to 71 per cent of all deaths globally, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

More than three-quarters of these deaths occur in low to middle income countries.

NCDs are a major health issue in South East Asia, with rates of NCDs approaching those of high-income countries. In 2019, 76 per cent of all deaths across South East Asia were attributed to NCDs, ranging from 69 per cent in the Philippines to 80 per cent in Vietnam.

The rise in NCD prevalence in middle-income countries is not just a population health issue but has significant economic and social impacts.

How we helped

The UK Better Health Programme (BHP)

The UK Better Health Programme (BHP), established in 2019, is part of a global initiative. Its aim is to provide technical assistance in eight low-to-middle-income countries in their efforts to tackle the burden of NCDs, and in line with the global NCD-related targets for 2030 as part of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

The countries originally involved were Brazil, Mexico, South Africa and, in South East Asia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

The work in South East Asia is managed by PwC, with agreed BHP activities coordinated and led by an in-country partner, including FHI360 and RTI.

The Better Health Programme provided technical support in five key areas. These included:

  • Strategies to counter NCDs

  • Health provider performance improvement

  • Digital health initiatives

  • Life sciences initiatives

  • Health education and training

What has the Better Health Programme been doing since establishment

Each country developed a unique set of activities based on priorities agreed with partner governments, following a comprehensive scoping study. These ranged from focusing on reducing NCD risk factors (Malaysia, Thailand), strengthening health systems (Thailand, Vietnam), providing education and training (Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand) and creating digital health solutions (Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam).

Activities include:

  • Community-based public health engagement and development in Malaysia;
  • Improvements in health systems interoperability and in the use of NCD data for decision-making at the commune level in Vietnam;
  • Generating NCD training and local learning exchanges for gestational diabetes and health technology assessments in the Philippines; and,
  • Increasing the uptake of health facility accreditation in Thailand.

At a glance

41m people each year die worldwide from NCDs.

76% of all deaths in SE Asia are due to NCDs.

The UN wants to reduce global NCD deaths by 1/3 by 2030.

Emerging themes

As part of the programme’s primary goal of tackling NCDs, each country’s team adopted bespoke approaches to the issues and context. However, the programme has also highlighted a number of emerging, common themes that go beyond specific in-country work. These may provide useful pointers for others working to tackle a health issue, whether it is an NCD or other health condition. To hear more about these themes, please follow the video links below.

Developing a community-based approach to addressing NCD risks

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Better Health Programme - Malaysia

Investing in digital health systems for data-driven decision making

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Better Health Programme - Vietnam

Enhancing existing healthcare measures to improve provider quality

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Better Health Programme - Philippines

Supporting the project’s work with research-based evidence

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Better Health Programme - Thailand

Issues and challenges

Each country programme faced significant challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, which emerged in South East Asia in January 2020 just as Better Health Programme (BHP) activities were commencing. As lockdowns were introduced, teams had to find adaptive solutions, including developing previously untested digital approaches to health education.

Landscape study of digital health developments in non-communicable diseases (NCD) care during COVID-19 across Southeast Asia

Mental Health - comparative study on mental health responses (both public and private) during the COVID-19 pandemic in Southeast Asia

Result and impact

"We’ve adopted a holistic method. We were determined that our community-based approach is supported by evidence to show that our approach can work."

Dr Shiang Cheng LimBHP Malaysia, Country Technical Lead

  • Published 9 articles including papers, blog editorials and journal articles
  • 843 people used the MyBHP app, including 8 food vendors
  • 584 people accessed the MyJomSihat Facebook group

“I think it’s so important that – whether we work in health, local government or national policy-making – we avoid working in silos. The NCD portal means we have an easy way of communicating with each other, a factor that has underpinned the Better Health Programme’s work in the Philippines.”

Dr Rogelio IlaganBHP Philippines, Country Technical Lead

  • 138 health care staff from more than 40 government facilities have attended the team’s training on gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM)
  • 2 LGUs (Pasig and Iloilo cities) will benefit from the team’s NCD-specific mapping tool

“Our work has been important because it shows how to benchmark quality of care and patient safety improvement measures, from our incidence data in Thailand, against global standards.”

Dr Inthira SuyaBHP Thailand, Country Technical Lead

  • 56 hospitals have joined the Healthcare Accreditation programme, and almost 150 hospitals joined the 2P safety programme in 2021
  • More than 20 organisations joined learning exchanges with UK and international experts on packaging labels and social marketing strategies for salt and sodium intake reduction
  • 104 healthcare professionals trained in e-journal development

"To support Vietnam in making a significant leap forward on treating non-communicable diseases, we had to first quantify the scale of the problem. By addressing the issue of electronic health data connectivity, quality of care for patients will be improved and policymakers will have more reliable data to help them clarify their priorities."

Dr Nam NguyenBHP Vietnam, Country Technical Lead

  • Inclusion of the NCD surveillance system, developed by BHP Vietnam, in the National Action Plan on prevention and control of non-communicable diseases and mental health disorders, for the period 2022-2025
  • The SNOMED system is now used in 3 hospitals
  • 62 health workers, all from semi-urban areas, have been trained for verbal autopsy reports to enable cause of death data collection, coding and reporting

Tristan Hockley

Tristan Hockley

Government and Public Sector Leader, South East Asia Consulting, PwC Singapore

+65 9753 6736

Tristan Hockley

Edwina Chin

Partner, South East Asia Consulting, PwC Singapore

+65 9750 3775

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