The importance of understanding intersectionality in health

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Mr. Rodrigo L. Leite, a 6th year medical student and Ms. Maria L. C. Meurer, a 4th year medial student from Brazil. They are affiliated with the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writers and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

As medical students we know that medical practice includes seeing not only the patient’s physical sphere, but also the mental and spiritual one, understanding him holistically. Therefore, understanding the patient’s scenario is essential to understand their history and understand certain inequalities that are still present today, for example, the lack of health infrastructure. Therefore, using the intersectionality view to better understand the society we live in is important to find the roots of some problems and act to solve them.

Intersectionality should not be a problem in an issue as primordial as health, but it exists and ends up contributing negatively, reinforcing some structures that, contrary to uniting, exclude. In a country like Brazil, with a public health system, verifying the existence of inequalities in the health area is very important to promote our health system that is for everyone, based mainly on the principles of universality, equity and integrality in actions and health services.

There is also a certain resistance from health professionals and the public system to understand and study the needs of patients from unique groups, both due to stereotyped social paradigms and the lack of subject information. That ends up affecting the doctor-patient relationship, creating a distance between the parties, and thus a failure in health care. Such distancing ends up to distancing of these people from medical care, making them vulnerable groups to be illness because they flee from the standard of the society they belong to, which is a mistake, because the reception and care must be unique and free from prejudice.

With this in view as medical students, we end up facing study groups, debates and even actions for certain populations, as well as the effort to understand their cultural and historical scenario, we see that much of what was used to exclude in the past, today it does not fit in our worldview and consequently in the way we are going to approach the issue of patients health, taking into account their singularities so that this is to add and not exclude, in this way, we believe that even if it still needs more integration, it is an optimistic journey.


•DÉBORA CARVALHO MELDAU. Conselho Estadual de Saúde do Rio de Janeiro. 2018. Available from: <;. Acess on: 22 jul. 2021.

About the author

Rodrigo L. Leite is a 27 year old medicine student from Brazil; he is at the 6th year of UNINGÁ Medical School. He is very interested in surgery, with focus on plastic surgery. He is also very glad to be a future doctor and to have the opportunity to be capable to help people to be happy with themselves.

Maria L. C. Meurer is a 4th year medical student of UNINGÁ and a member of IFMSA Brazil. Her hobbies include reading and participating in extension activities from her university.

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