Brazilian public health system and universality: a forgotten right!

Rio Brazil 2019

(Raphael Nogueira, Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Thamires Guedes Leite Moyses, a 3rd year medical student at Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo, Brazil. 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 has a free public health system (Sistema Único de Saúde – SUS), which is based on three pillars: universality, completeness and equity. According to Article 196 of the Brazilian Constitution, health is the right of everyone and the duty of the State, therefore, universality is the guarantee of access of the entire population to health services, at all levels of care, regardless of age, sex, ethnicity, naturalness or sexual orientation.

However, in spite of Brazil being known for cordiality, we still live in a machist, racist and intolerant country, including with immigrants, even with the mixigenation that we possess.

According to our Constitution and SUS guidelines, all those who are in Brazilian territory have the right of access to public health, even if they don’t have any document, however, there is often a noncompliance with this right and an omission of the State, because we have a lack of information and inadequate preparation of health professionals, who know little about the specificities of the migratory issue and the rights of immigrants.

This context could be perceived in recent months with the intense influx of immigrants from Venezula to Brazil, the population is choosing to face dangers so that they can arrive in a place with a language and culture totally new, for the purpose of a dignified life.

However, when they arrive here, they face conditions that put them in situations of vulnerability ranging from slave labor, disrespect to cultural diversity, disinformation, discrimination until difficulty in accessing health, showing the unpreparedness of our country. This raises a question about the principle of universality, and it’s clear that we need to think of proposals for confrontation that can guarantee access to social rights, especially health, as a pillar necessary for the well-being of the human being.

Moreover, thinking about this situation in a large part of the world, including in my country, we need to think: how can we help and ensure that migrants have their rights guaranteed and have decent living conditions? The IFMSA has two committees that can act strongly with the population on this case, SCORP and SCOPH, where we deal with issues of human rights and peace and public health, support projects are already being carried out to immigrants in situations of vulnerability in addition to raising awareness of the general population about the importance of offering support to these people.

However, despite the action of us, medical students, be very important, we need that the Government works for our constitution to be respected, because almost nothing is said about the health of immigrants.

Therefore, the need to improve public health policies and management is evident, preparing the entire population to meet these demands of immigrant populations that have different specificities and vulnerabilities, and it is necessary to adopt strategies that guarantee health rights in Brazil, so those people who have seen in Brazil the hope of prosperity, have a life of rights, free of discrimination or any impediment of access to full citizenship.

About the author

Thamires Guedes Leite Moyses is a 3rd year medical student at Pontifical Catholic
University of São Paulo, Brazil. In her university she works at IFMSA BRAZIL PUC SP as a
Local Public Health Officer Director (LPO-D) and at Santé Júnior, the junior company of
medical and nursing students of PUCSP and seeksto discuss and work with health
manager and innovation. She believes that public health is fundamental to moving our
world and always tries to participate in discussions, projects and campaigns in the
area, inside and outside the IFMSA.

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