Elon International Studies: Brazil



Meet the Crew

Life in a Favela

Adventures in the

Black, White, and in
Between: Diversity
in Brazil


Biodiversity in the Amazon

Samba School

Favela Tour Opens Students' Eyes

Quality of Life
in Brazil

A Country that Runs
on Alcohol

Racial Inequality in

Ancient Indian
Remedy, New
Western Craze

Maracana Stadium

The Amazon


A Dish With Many Tastes

The Music and Dance
of Brazil as seen in
the Samba Schools

without Language

Fixing the
Race Problem

If an Entire Species is
Destroyed Before its
Discovered, Did it
Ever Exist?

The Beauty of Buzios

Salvador's Afro-
Brazilian Culture

Health Care and
Concerns in Brazil


Cristo Redentor

GST 243 Homepage

2004 Archives

Health Care and Concerns in Brazil

Monica Van Dongen

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        Health care and sanitary living conditions vary widely from region to region in Brazil . There is a wide social gap between the northern and southern regions of the country, resulting in sharp differences between the health statuses of each area. In particular, the Northeast region faces the worst health conditions in the country. Poverty is prevalent in this region resulting in poor living conditions and widespread diseases which need medical attention.

        The need for improved health care is an important issue throughout the country. Brazil does have a public health care system, however its coverage is not extensive and its quality is lacking. For the 60% of the population who use the public health care system, services are limited to basic immunizations and emergency care. There is also a shortage of doctors, nurses and hospitals in areas of low population which is a problem in these regions. More densely populated areas including major cities like Sao Paul, Rio de Janeiro , and Salvador have more qualified physicians however they face greater issues of poverty.

        Due to the prevalence of poverty in major cities, providing adequate health care to these people becomes a difficult task. About one-third of Rio de Janeiro 's 10 million people live in extreme poverty in city favelas. There are over 500 individual favelas in Rio de Janeiro alone. Our group was able to tour one of these slums in our travels. Although we were surprised at the friendliness and upbeat attitudes of the people residing there, it was clear that their sanitary and health conditions need attention. They have inadequate sewage disposal, which was obvious to us from the poignant odor smelt while passing through the area. The majority of people living in favelas also drink dirty water, have poor living conditions and are malnourished from improper nutrition and widespread disease. Infant mortality is also common in these areas. Children born in favelas are six times more likely to die than children born into middle-class families. It is vital that efforts be made to help improve the health and the lives of the millions living in poverty in Brazil .

A favela in Rio de Janeiro

        Infant mortality is a serious issue in Brazil , especially in favelas and the Northeast region of the country. More than half of infant deaths occur in the Northeast region of Brazil . Several factors contribute to the high infant mortality rates, including disease, poor health care, poverty and birth-related issues. Poor maternal nutrition as well as the detrimental effects of cigarette smoking contribute to these high rates. Disease is common among newborns, especially in impoverished areas where basic necessities are lacking. The most common diseases include diarrhea, pneumonia, respiratory infections, measles, smallpox and fraquenza.

        The occurrence of disease in Brazil is rising rapidly, causing more health concerns in the country. The spread of AIDS has been rapid, resulting in about 40,000 cases to date. It is thought that the spread of this disease is caused not only by sexual interactions but also by poorly regulated blood supply during blood transfusions. Tropical diseases such as yellow fever and malaria are common in the Amazon, which we also visited during our trip. After speaking with locals of the Amazon villages, we were informed that physicians visit their villages only about once every 3 months, leaving them without much medical care for the majority of the year. Regions of the Amazon are visited by traveling bus clinics and riverboat hospitals that provide immunizations and general medical care. However, when emergencies arise unexpectedly, the lack of availability of medical care becomes a big problem.

An isolated house in the Amazon where medical attention is only provided about once every 3 months

        It is clear that Brazil needs to make improvements in health care and the high rates of poverty throughout the country. Some action has been taken by social programs, such as the Medecins Sans Frontieres, in efforts to help those in need. These groups help in ways such as focusing on improving health care for mothers and children and preventing and treating communicable diseases. They also hold campaigns to help inform and sensitize the public on the plight of the homeless. These programs have been successful in minor improvements of poverty and health care, however further advancement and funding is essential to make any significant improvements to the country. Health care is a major issue in Brazil today. Hopefully over time, the poor living conditions and the serious issues of poverty and disease seen in Brazil will be addressed and improved throughout the country.


Work Cited:

•  The Sharp Divide – Brazil Infant Mortality: The facts. New Internationalist. Issue 254. Appril 1994.

•  Lotufo P. “Child Health in Sao Paulo , Brazil : doing things right but with new concern about anemia and asthma.” Sao Paulo Medical Journal. September 2001: vol 119, n.5.

•  Brazil Health Profile: http://www.nationmaster.com/country/br/Health

•  Brazil – Looking at Health Care: http://www.settlement.org/english/brazil/health.htm

•  Brazil : “Helping Rio 's Down and Out”. Medecins Sans Frontieres. 2001-2002 activity report


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