Privatization and public health: a question of Human Rights


(Olga Kononenko, Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Caroline Dourado, a first-year medical student at the Pontifical Catholic University of Goiás, 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 strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

After centuries of healthcare being a privative question, in 1978, The Conference of Alma Ata finally promoted holistic health as an essential and unresolvable Human Right and, the most important, as a Government’s responsibility.

According to the text of the Conference, governments should have achieved that goal on the earlies 2000, but we are almost reaching 2020 and, unfortunately, millions of people around the word still not having access to a good healthcare. This can be a clear effect of the privatization of health, which makes life a product to sell and buy, cause by low investments in public health and is responsible for the inequality on health.

A priori, the relationship between public health and the marketplace can be a disaster: when the governments don not offer properly public healthcare, the citizens starts to seek for private healthcare or health insurance.

That is where the issues grow: since the most insurances offer only primary and secondary health care, and the costly procedures – such as transplants, infectious diseases control and treatment, sanitary surveillance, chronic diseases treatments – stay in the hands of the state. Of course, some of those services are better done by the public service, but that is not the question.

What we need to think is primary healthcare should be offered by the government, so people would not feel the need to run for privative services. Investing in primary attention can clearly get down with onerous expenses, since thought it we can work on preventive actions and promote health care.

Consequentially, we can see a widening social disparity in health. Once the State doesn’t offers enough public healthcare and the private sector grows, the poorest layers of society are left with a lack of necessary care for human life, since they can’t afford private care and are orphans of the care that governments have pledged to offer.

In this, we can perceive a total disrespect for human dignity, citizenship, social rights and democratic principles, because these have its roots in the access and participation of all people in a nation.

Hence, this bitter situation seems to be far from the end and resolution, every day we see it getting worst, but we cannot stop to make efforts to change it. Just as said by the French philosopher Michael de Montaigne “health is the only thing that deserves that in its search we employ not only time, sweat, pity, goods, but also even life itself; even more so that without it life becomes painful and unfair.”


Alma Ata Declaration. World Health Organization [WHO]. International Conference on Primary Care.1978.

Giddens, A. Sociology. 4th edition revised. Oxford, United Kingdom. Polity Press. May 2001.

Cotta, R. M. M., Muniz. J.N.,. Mendes, F. F., Cotta Filho, J.S. A Crise do Sistema Único de Saúde e a Fuga para o Mercado. [publicação online]. 1998. Acesso em 25 ago 2019. Disponível em:

About the author

Caroline Dourado is a first-year medical student at the Pontifical Catholic University of Goiás. She is interested in anthropology, literature, pop culture, women's health and gender studies. She believes that education is the best way to bring about local change with worldwide reflections and to empower girls and women. She is currently a member of the local IFMSA committee and the Job Daughters International.










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