Brazilian health: right or privilege?

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Luiza Ferro Marques Moraes, 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.


Dengue, Zika, Chicungunha, Ebola, Burnout, depression and anxiety. Does it take more to show that Brazil is sick? Health has always been our greatest wealth, but maybe now it has been turned into a “privilege”.

It may sound strange to talk about privileges in health, as here in Brazil it is an universal right, but does it actually work? It is a fact that we have got a lot of problems related to health, no institution is perfect, but the discrepancy in the access to medicines and medical procedures, when we compare regions, or maybe economical spheres (public or private), is alarming. Maybe that is a restricted “right”.(2)

The question is: why is this right restricted and health has become a privilege?

Brazil is a capitalist country (or at least tries to be). Whoever moves the chess pieces of this capitalist game is concerned with winning, not guaranteeing the rights of the citizens. And how does one gain in health? It is a cycle: weak investment in public health and privatization proposals.

The Brazilian public health system – Unified Health System (SUS) – is one of the most perfects, but only in theory.(1) All of us, Brazilian citizens, have the right to vaccines, medicines, medical assistance, maneging and other things. The reality, however, is that the state cares little about investing and manage this system, which leads to several cases of corruption and deficiencies in the SUS. (4)

Given this precarious public health, capitalists take advantage of the ease that the Government shamelessly provides for private companies and invest in “private” health here in the country, as they know that the middle and upper classes will use this medium and will bring profits to these companies.(3)

The lower class population, which represents almost 70% of Brazilians, is therefore dependent on a system full of corruption and deficiencies! It is sad to see that the majority of the population has no other way of getting access to health and that the fault of this problem, most of the time, lies with the people that this population has elected to represent them in government. (3)

Understanding this cycle, it becomes obvious why there is such a discrepancy in Brazilian health, especially with regard the economic environment. (2) It is contradictory to think that those who were chosen to represent and improve SUS are the same ones that neglect services for this system and still facilitate the rise of private companies, but it is our reality here in Brazil. Health, a right that has become a privilege.

References

  1. Sistema Único de Saúde (SUS): estrutura, princípios e como funciona. [Acesso em 2019 ago 23]. Disponível em: http://www.saude.gov.br/sistema-unico-de-saude
  2. Melo MFGC. Relações público-privadas no sistema de saúde brasileiro [tese]. Campinas Universidade Esta- dual de Campinas; 2017.
  3. Sestelo JAF. Planos e seguros de saúde do Brasil de 2000 a 2015 e a dominância financeira [tese]. Rio de Janeiro: Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro; 2017.
  4. Paim JS. A Constituição Cidadã e os 25 anos do Sistema Único de Saúde. Cad Saude Publica 2013; 29(10):1927- 1953.

About the author

Luiza Ferro Marques Moraes is a first year medical student at the Pontifical Catholic University of Goiás, Brazil. Besides the interest in the biological area and medicine, she always liked to study about politics and society, especially involving Brazil. She believes that life is made of moments! All of them will come and bring us knowledge, so we should be fully present in each and enjoy them to the best of our ability. At IFMSA, she has already created and coordinated a project called “Gincana Solidária”, was part of the Intimacy Station at the 1st Health Fair and is a member of IFMSA BRAZIL PUC-GO.

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