Dignified health for all who live here

Refugee Crisis

(Mark Chaves, Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Rafaela Paulino, a Brazilian medical student now in the third year. She is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


Brazil from the beginning of its colonization has been routed to thousands of people who, due to political, religious and financial issues, left their homeland and went to a “new world” in search of better living conditions for themselves and their families. Although centuries have passed and society has developed a lot, this dream of better living conditions still motivates thousands of people around the world, especially those residing in countries considered “third world” or going through a period of war and conflict, to risk, often, illegally, in a country with a different, and sometimes prejudiced, language.

In the last five years, there has been a significant increase of African and South American immigrants and refugees who have come to reside in Brazil. And like all of us, these newer residents also need medical care and decent human health care. And it is for the sake of the human being that the Brazilian Constitution guarantees access to the entire population to public health services in a free and universal way, that is, anyone has access to it. In addition, the Brazilian government grants these immigrants and refugees temporary citizenship, which allows them to have the right to enjoy the Brazilian public health system. However, there are still other essential issues that we can improve to provide these migrants with quality and humane health.

Something that we as future doctors and health professionals can improve is our understanding of the reality and culture of these people. For example, we need to understand their habits and customs in order to guide them as regards food, physical activity, prevention against sexually transmitted diseases, among other topics, in an effective and adherent way. We see this by indicating a diet to a patient from another country: here in Brazil, beans are widely accepted and consumed, as well as cheap and nutritious, but some patients from another place may not accept this dish, in the same way that some patients may have “idiopathic” hypertension due to their own eating habits and we physicians do not detect this because of lack of familiarity with exotic foods.

Another cultural aspect of enormous importance is language. The center of a doctor-patient relationship is the professional’s understanding of what afflicts the patient. This relationship is based on the communication of these two, so both need to speak in a way that one understands what the other expresses. It is up to us, health professionals, to seek strategies to understand each other’s language as much as we can to understand it.

So in my country, in order to provide better access to health for immigrants, we should seek improvements in the issues that make up the cultural understanding of those who seek our land to live. These issues are important for those who come to Brazil to have health in a dignified and human way.

About the author

Rafaela Paulino is a Brazilian medical student now in the third year. She has studied medicine course in Catholic University of Pelotas since 2017. In 2018 she has volunteered for clowntherapy and has become member of Medical Education committee at IFMSA Brazil UCPel. In the following year, she has become local secretary (LSG) of IFMSA Brazil UCPel. She wants to be a surgeon and develop the local committee.

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