Typically, in rural areas of most developing countries, the vast majority of households, many of them living below the respective national poverty line, keep poultry. If adverse impacts on these poultry keepers are to be avoided, and if they are to contribute to HPAI risk reduction, it is essential to develop and implement control strategies that are adapted to initial conditions and local institutions. Because of diversity in the former (both between as well as within countries) and complexity of the latter, economy-wide prescriptions and ‘rules of thumb’ are unlikely to achieve anything close to optimum control strategies. With the aim of contributing to evidence-based and equitable disease control strategies the DFID-funded HPAI Research Project is promoting a systematic approach to address the global HPAI risk, which combines rigorous epidemiological and economic analysis with risk management, stakeholder consultation and policy influence. The approach is currently being developed and applied in the Mekong region with important insights emerging from Viet Nam, one of the most severely affected countries. This brief is a spatial description of the initial conditions in poultry keeping found in Viet Nam before the first outbreak of HPAI.