Assistant professor of anthropology Kim Jones recently presented a paper at a conference hosted by the American Anthropological Association.
“Twenty Years of Universal Public Healthcare in Brazil: A Case Study from the Brazilian Sertão”
After two decades of a military government, Brazil re-formed a democratic government in 1985 and passed the New Constitution of 1988. In this document, healthcare was stated as the right of every Brazilian citizen and the responsibility of the state. Consequently, in the early 1990s, a federal plan for socialized medicine, entitled Sistema Unica de Saude (The Unique System of Health), was enacted. Montes Claros is the largest urban center in a agricultural region in the Brazilian sertão and has tripled in size due to rural to urban migration since 1990. In 1991, the State University of Montes Claros proposed to increase access to healthcare in the region by expanding the free training of health care professionals and developing an all-SUS teaching hospital. By providing free hands-on education, providing free healthcare, and training health care providers to serve the needs of rural to urban migrants, the university assisted in enacting public policy. Oral histories of the development of public health care since the advent of SUS in Montes Claros were conducted with dozens of professors and administrators at the university and university hospital and with public health care administrators at the local and state levels. This case study resonates with modern theoretical and practical concerns related to addressing health disparities. Furthermore, the ability of the local public health care system to serve rural to urban migrants serves as an important model of how a public university can be instrumental in addressing public healthcare needs created by urbanization.