Paying Heed to Health

Myanmar Health Care System has been evolving with the changing political and administrative systems. The relative roles played by the key providers, both public and private, are also changing although the Ministry of Health remains the major provider of comprehensive health care. It has a pluralistic mix of public and private system, both in the financing and provision sectors. The rising need of health care policies, on the Government priority list, is opening up new opportunities for foreign engagement. Foreign companies will only be allowed to invest in private hospitals and clinics on a 70:30 ratio with local partners, according to the Deputy Health Minister, Dr Thein Thein Htay. The presence of foreign businesses will allow better job opportunities for doctors, nurses, and skilled workers.

In implementing the objective of uplifting the health status of the entire nation, the Ministry of Health is taking the responsibility of providing comprehensive health care services covering activities for promoting health, preventing diseases, providing effective treatment and rehabilitation to raise the health status of the population. The Department of Health one of seven departments under the Ministry of Health plays a major role in providing comprehensive health care throughout the country including remote and hard to reach border areas.

Recently, The Ministry of Health invested 73.26 billion Kyat received as reserve budget to buy medicine and equipment, so as to provide free healthcare to emergency patients, pregnant women and children under the age of five in public hospitals. The private sector is mainly providing ambulatory care in Myanmar. However, there are some private institutions whose focus is on providing institutional care in Nay Pyi Taw, Yangon, Mandalay and other large cities.

The Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon at night photo:
The Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon at night photo:

General Practitioners’ Section of the Myanmar Medical Association with its branches in townships, provide these practitioners the opportunities to update and exchange their knowledge and experiences, by holding seminars, talks and symposia on currently emerging issues and updated diagnostic and therapeutic measures. The Medical Association and its branches also provide a link between them and their counterparts in public sector so that private practitioners can also participate in public health care activities. One unique and important feature of Myanmar health system is the existence of traditional medicine along with allopathic medicine. There are a total of fourteen traditional hospitals run by the State in the country. Traditional medical practitioners are being trained at the Institute of Traditional Medicine. A new University of Traditional Medicine has been established in Mandalay, for competent practitioners to avail a bachelor’s degree, allowing for better training and placements.

Myanmar Red Cross Society is also taking some share of service provision and their roles are also becoming important as the needs for collaboration in health become more prominent.


The Government has embarked on a far reaching reform programme to transform the country into a modern, developed and democratic nation that improves the livelihood of its people. The Government has aspired for people-centred development while staying focused on achievable results. It shall start modestly, but move decisively with international assistance to enlarge capacity and skill development to reduce incidence of poverty and achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. Health sector change in transitional economies is a hybrid of two issues that are normally separate but that coalesce in these cases. The first issue is that of reform in the health sector in general. The precise agenda for reform is defined by reviewing how well existing policies, institutions, structures, and systems deal with issues of efficiency and equity. The second issue underlying health sector change in transitional economies is more macroeconomic in nature and much less voluntary.


Promoting and protecting health is essential to human welfare and sustained economic and social development. Education, housing, food and employment all impact on health. Redressing inequalities in these will reduce inequalities in health. It determines whether people can afford to use health services when they need them. Health financing is an important part of broader efforts to ensure social protection in health. Recognizing this, Myanmar seems committed to strengthen the health financing systems so that all people have access to services and do not suffer financial hardship paying for them The major sources of finance for health care services are the government, private households, social security system, community contributions and external aid. Government has increased health spending on both current and capital yearly. Total government health expenditure increased from kyat 464.1million in 1988-89 to kyat 86547 million in 2010-2011.

Health Expenditures by Providers (2006-07 to 2009-10)

PROVIDERS 2006-2007 2007-2008 2008-2009 2009-2010
Hospitals 69.59 70.55 70.33 67.89
Ambulatory Health Care 17.23 17.3 17.54 17.01
Retail sale and medical goods 3.85 3.87 3.84 3.79
Provision and Administration of Public Health Programs 2.06 2.00 2.00 2.51
General Health Administration 0.69 0.53 0.51 0.50
Health Related Services 2.59 1.85 1.98 1.82
Rest of the world 3.99 3.90 3.80 6.48