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The impact of economic growth on health care utilization: a longitudinal study in rural Vietnam

Nguyen Thi Minh Thoa1*, Nguyen Xuan Thanh2, Nguyen Thi Kim Chuc1 and Lars Lindholm3

Author Affiliations

1 Hanoi Medical University, 01-Ton That Tung Str, Dong Da Dist, Hanoi, Vietnam

2 Institute of Health Economics, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

3 Umeå International School of Public Health, Umeå, Sweden

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International Journal for Equity in Health 2013, 12:19  doi:10.1186/1475-9276-12-19

Published: 16 March 2013



In many developing countries, including Vietnam, out-of-pocket payment is the principal source of health financing. The economic growth is widening the gap between rich and poor people in many aspects, including health care utilization. While inequities in health between high- and low-income groups have been well investigated, this study aims to investigate how the health care utilization changes when the economic condition is changing at a household level.


We analysed a panel data of 11,260 households in a rural district of Vietnam. Of the sample, 74.4% having an income increase between 2003 and 2007 were defined as households with economic growth. We used a double-differences propensity score matching technique to compare the changes in health care expenditure as percentage of total expenditure and health care utilization from 2003 to 2005, from 2003 to 2007, and from 2005 to 2007, between households with and without economic growth.


Households with economic growth spent less percentage of their expenditure for health care, but used more provincial/central hospitals (higher quality health care services) than households without economic growth. The differences were statistically significant.


The results suggest that households with economic growth are better off also in terms of health services utilization. Efforts for reducing inequalities in health should therefore consider the inequality in income growth over time.

Economic growth; Health care utilization; Household expenditure Vietnam