Tag Archives: medical

Award-winning OB-GYN: Japanese health advisor achieves global recognition for efforts in Laos

Dr Hiromi Obara presented with FIGO Award at World Congress in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Laos-based medic Doctor Hiromi Obara from Japan is one of twenty women practitioners in the field worldwide awarded in 2018 by the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics’ (FIGO) at its World Congress in Brazil. The recognition comes amid contributions to improving the health of women in low and middle-income countries and other resource-limited settings.

As the winter snows fall on Japan’s rural and windswept northern coastal Aomori prefecture, the cool, dry season of Laos in tropical South-East Asia may seem somewhat distant indeed.

For award-winning medic, Dr Hiromi Obara, the connection between the two places and their people is clear when it comes to maternal and child health.

Growing up in this part of rural Japan helped put this women’s reproductive health specialist on a long path to the international impact that has now seen formal recognition. Her inspiration to pursue a career in this critical field of medicine was born of experiences of people in her homeland, whose geographically remote and less populated parts have long-faced the challenges of deficits of access to medical care due to distance and related issues.

Her career since has seen her obtaining her MSc in Epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine to contributing in joint efforts with counterparts to improve access to quality care for rural and remote communities in the Southeast Asian nation of Laos and beyond.

Dedication and capacity developed over the intervening years has led to present focus on the health of women and children in Laos. In this south-east Asian nation, she actively supports policymakers and practitioners to assist more women and children in rural and remote parts to achieve better health outcomes thanks to increased access.

Serving as a Health Policy Advisor to Laos’ Ministry of Health on behalf of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Dr Obara is working closely with fellow officials and programme managers in the country to improve access to the services provided by professional health personnel nationwide.

Now, these efforts have been formally recognised by her fellows in the field. FIGO, a peak body representing national societies in some 130 countries worldwide, awards women obstetricians and gynecologists, predominantly from low- and middle-income countries, who have contributed significantly to the improvement of health care for women in their daily practice or via research.
FIGO Award winning Dr Hiromi Obara

Among the twenty FIGO awardees announced at the triennial global congress held in October in Brazil, Dr Obara was one of a handful to hail from a developed country.

Asked what she is most proud of, it’s the impact of the results of the work of her counterparts and the achievements they have been able to make with women, their children, families and communities.

“Compared to other countries, the situation in Lao PDR was notorious concerning inequity in access to Maternal and Child Health Care, as recently as 2011/12.”

“However, thanks to the government’s commitment, investment in reproductive, maternal, newborn, child health has increased by various means such as the development of midwives, free MCH access schemes, resulting in improved pro-poor access to maternal and child health at scale.”

Among these achievements is the increased percentage of births attended by professional health personnel. As average, the proportion of deliveries attended by professional health personnel increased from 42% in 2011/12 to 64% in 2017.
More mothers and children benefit from access to professional health personnel. – Image JICA

Credit for such improvements she ascribes primarily to efforts of counterparts in the ministry at every level, from leadership to those delivering lifesaving and protecting services across the country.

“My counterparts (MoH officials) have strong ownership and leadership which,  together with the inputs from JICA and other Development Partners, has contributed to the recent health outcomes, in particular, pro-poor and equitable access to maternal and child health services.

“Without enough dialogue, it is not possible for me to offer technical support. As such, I appreciate their kind collaboration. I have learned a lot from MoH officials here in the Lao PDR.”

On secondment from the National Center for Global Health and Medicine (NCGM) Japan, Dr Obara has over 18 years’ experience providing technical, programmatic and management support in reproductive, maternal and newborn health (RMNH).

Her career has since seen her contributing across several locations in the Western Pacific Region and beyond, focusing on resource-limited settings in particular.

At home in Japan, she has served as Deputy Director of the International Affairs Division of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare and as a doctor at Jichi Medical University Hospital.

Apart from Laos, she has also worked as a reproductive Health Medical Officer in World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for the Western Pacific and as Chief Advisor to JICA’s MCH project in Cambodia.

Dr Obara counts among her areas of expertise country policies, strategies, plans, clinical guidelines, and efforts to improve financial access to and equitable access to and quality of care. Her efforts include contributing to regional and global meetings as an RMNH expert and to WHO publications as a member of several Guideline Development Groups and the Independent Review Group.

Such contributions have seen her well placed to offer advice to health authorities in how to best conduct maternal death reviews, improve newborn care, eliminate unsafe abortions, develop policy strategy frameworks and conduct monitoring both at country and regional levels.

Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteer (JOCV) supports Lao medical professionals to deliver MCH services. (Credit Steven A Cleary/JICA)

Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteer (JOCV) supports Lao medical professionals to deliver MCH services. (Credit Steven A Cleary/JICA)

Looking forward, Dr Obara is optimistic about the trends and prospects for better access and outcomes for women and their children in Laos as the developing nation closes in on its 2020 goals.

To achieve these goals and continually improve the health outcomes for women and infants in 2020 and beyond necessitates appropriate funding allocation to the sector in terms of facilities, equipment and medicine as well as providing targeted incentives for ongoing improvement of human resource capacity to deliver result-based, family-centered services and clinical care countrywide, Dr Obara said.

Dr Hiromi Obara presented with FIGO Award at World Congress in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Dr Hiromi Obara presented with FIGO Award at World Congress in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Laos Aims to Raise Healthcare Standards, Hones in on Hospital Management

Laos Hospital

In an effort to improve the country’s healthcare services and human resources development, management administrators from five major hospitals recently met in Vientiane to review effective management methods.

The one-week course, occurring under the Swiss Laos Hospital Project, included patient services management, quality health services, and issues surrounding human resources and development.

Participants in the training also studied a variety of other topics including framework corporate culture, strategic planning, organisational leadership, good governance, financial management, human resource management and change management in regards to project management.

Deputy Director of the Healthcare Department under the Ministry of Health, Associate Prof Dr Bounnack, stressed the importance of improving hospital management in Laos, stating that that it was imperative for us to increase our understanding of hospital management, especially amongst hospital administrators across the country.

It was added, that sometimes senior officials who are undergoing training don’t always necessarily have experience in human resources development or patient service management because they are specialists in other types of healthcare.

However, these same doctors, nurses and medical staff still can’t adequately provide quality standards for certain types of medical services  because they lack adequate knowledge of management practices, which means they don’t always look after their patients as well as they should, says Associate Prof Dr Bounnack.

In previous years, The Ministry of Health collaborated with various hospitals around Vientiane and conducted meetings and workshops to gain an understanding among doctors, nurses and medical staff about the importance of providing quality healthcare services.

Unfortunately, hospital administrators still lack the capacity and knowledge to manage these services and their associated issues.

Before the ministry can expand and implement this model to other hospitals in the country, the Deputy Director explained that this course must first be successful in bridging the gaps and laying the foundation as an example for hospital management in Laos.

Deputy Director General of Mahosot Hospital, Associate Prof. Dr Ounkham Phanthaly, said he believed the workshop had an important role to play in the development of capacity and knowledge of hospital administrative staff.

“We think that if we want to solve problems in healthcare services we should start with hospital administrators because they are the ones who will make the decisions on most issues within their organisations,” Associate Prof.
Dr Ounkham stated.

Hospital management aspires to protect the rights and benefits of members of the public in regards to delivery of medical treatment and reducing the number of complaints.

The broader policy aims to provide people of all ethnic groups with quality treatment on an impartial basis.

Safe Anesthesia Examined at Medical Workshop

Anesthesiologists from ASEAN member countries and other cooperation partners met in Vientiane recently to review their work in the sector and discuss methods of improving patient care and providing safe anesthetics.

The participants learned how to use different models of anesthetics machines as well as troubleshooting common problems and discussing improvements to patient safety.

The workshop also provided a great opportunity for participants to meet and talk with experts in the field from Laos, Thailand, Japan, the Republic of Korean and France, including anesthesiologists and also their anesthesia equipment as well as biomedical engineers.

The workshop was supported by the Anesthesia Fellowship at the Bangkok Anesthesia Regional Training Centre (BARTC).

President of the Lao Society of Anesthesiologists Association, Associate Prof. Dr Oukham Phanthaly spoke to Vientiane Timeson Saturday after the 3rd annual workshop entitled improvement of quality in emergency medical services (EMS).

He said the workshop stressed the importance of anesthesiologists in regard to the provision of emergency medical services before, during and after surgery.

Dr Oukham explained that anesthesiology is the practice of medicine dedicated to the total care of the patient before, during and after surgery. Anesthesiologists are also experts in resuscitation, pain management and intensive care.

The aim of this workshop was to present the strategic approaches for the improvement of quality in emergency medical services (EMS) before and after surgery because EMS is integrated within the health care system and anesthetists are obliged to respond to medical emergencies, he said

The workshop aimed to teach the participants various aspects of anesthesia machine basics and safety features, how to identify equipment problems, locating the cause and determining workable solutions, including the changing experiences of patients.

Anesthesiologists from Laos and ASEAN member countries as well as partner countries reported the progress of their activities for many sub-working groups to work on anesthesia in intra-abdominal trauma, the common airway problems in pediatric anesthesia, ethics and research for anesthesiologists.

Also examined were approaches for patients who are on antithrombotic agents, anesthesia for morbid obesity , techniques in inhalation anesthesia, minimising blood loss in liver surgery, neuro-anesthesia for non-neuroanesthesiologists and anesthesia for obstetric bleeding patients.

Fellowships and other grants are on offer to young anesthesiologists, aiming to strengthen the international capacity to deliver safe anesthesia and effective pain relief.

The fellowship also aims to develop and make available quality educational materials for anesthesiologists.

According to the Lao Society of Anesthesiologists Association, in 1996, Laos had only three anesthesiologists. Currently, there are more than 80 anesthesiologists in Laos.


Source: Vientiane Times


IACD Helps Improve Mobile Medical Services

Institute of Asian Culture and Development (IACD) has provided addition grant aid to further improve a mobile medical service project in Borikhan, Khamkeuth and Viengthong districts, Borikhamxay province after completing the first phase.