Brazil: Bias in medical treatment of blacks; Of deaths related to childbirth, 80% are black

black women Brazil
“Health of the Black Population: A Question of Fairness”

Ofdeaths related to childbirth, 80% are black
Emilio Sant’Anna

According to theMinistry of Health, 300 women a month die as a result of problems related tochildbirth. Of these, 80% are black women. The mortality rate among them ishigher in the southern states of the country – 6.31 deaths per 100,000 womenblack of childbearing age, compared to 2.75 for white women per 100,000. In theSoutheast, the most populous region in Brazil, the rate is 1.82 deaths forwhite women and 4.90 for black women.

These disparitiesextend themselves to other health problems of the black population can bemeasured by the difference in life expectancy of 74 years for whites and 67.5years for blacks, on average, without taking gender into consideration.

For the coordinator ofthe Comitê Técnico de Saúde da População Negra (Specialist Committee on theHealth of the Black Population), Ana Costa, these are some of the signs ofracism present in the Sistema Único de Saúde (Unique System of Health or SUS).“We are encouraging that from now on blacks make complaints to the Ombudsman ofthe Ministry of Health”, she says.


Even today, however,the ministry itself does not know the numbers of cases of racism registered inthe entire network of public health. However, the perception of discriminationin SUS seems incontestable. “It has always existed, the difference is that nowwe have scientific evidence,” says Ana Costa. It is based on these data thatthe committee formed by health researchers and leaders of the Movimento Negro (collective of black rightsorganizations) –  intends to use to arguefor the formulation of affirmative action policies.

The plan involvesworkshops and campaigns against racism and discrimination, and also seeks aninvestment in the improvement of information on health and the training ofblack leadership. For the head of this committee, it is the first step inending what she calls ‘socially determined diseases.’


HealthMinister admits that there is racism in the SUS

Based on a surveyconducted by the Fundação Oswaldo Cruz (Fiocruz or the Oswaldo CruzFoundation), the Health Minister Agenor Alvares, acknowledged that there isracism in the medical care of blacks in the Unique Health System (SUS). Citingthe study, the minister explained that such discrimination is reflected inincomplete diagnosis, tests that aren’t done and even a refusal of touching thepatient. “This racism creates very perverse conditions we have to fightthis aggressively. We want to build a new culture and create values ofsolidarity and tolerance in relation to the black population,” said theminister, participating in Rio de Janeiro, from the opening of a seminar whichdiscussed the basis for the new National Health Policy of the Black Population.

The minister said thegoal of this program is to reduce the incidence of AIDS, tuberculosis,hypertension, cervical cancer and maternal mortality, which have the greatestimpact on the black population in comparison to whites. “If the prevalenceof these diseases are characterized by a lack of care, this is a flaw that weneed to fix,” he said. The seminar was overseen by Maria Inez Barbosa, whorepresented the Special Secretariat for Policies to Promote Racial Equality.

Maria Inez Barbosa

The fight againstdiscrimination, according to Alvarez, includes professional training coursesfor doctors, nurses, attendants of accredited institutions of SUS, andencouraging the reporting of poor medical service to the General Ombudsman ofSUS. The initiative includes states and municipalities.

Singer Negra Li expecting first child

Research

The ministry will alsoallocate R$3 million (Brazilian reaisor about $1.75 million American dollars)for 60 research projects that focus on the health of the black population. Thefunds will be distributed by the National Council for Scientific andTechnological Development. “The consolidation of the constitutionalprinciples of SUS will only be complete when it is not necessary for us toestablish specific policies for specific segments of our population,” saidthe minister.

Militants of theMovimento Negro celebrated the posture adopted by the Ministry of Health that,in recognizing the problem, seeks to change the situation. “SUS wascreated to serve the citizen, but actually it serves according to social classand color. As new policies are implemented, I believe we will reverse the waythe black population is served at health centers to the hospitals of highcomplexity,” said the coordinator of the NGO Criola, Lúcia Xavier.

According to thecoordinator of the Technical Committee on the Health of the Black Population,Ana Costa, the federal government has some data that are indicative of theprejudice in medical care given to blacks. The maternal mortality rate, forexample, is more than double for black women in comparison to white women (4.79and 2.09 women per 100,000 inhabitants, respectively). Mortality rates of HIVinfection are also higher among black women (12.29 women per 100,000inhabitants) than among white women (5.45), according to data from thesoutheast region. Another study found that the number of deaths of womenbetween the ages of 10 and 49 involving causes connected to pregnancy,childbirth and post-childbirth complications was three greater for black womenthan for white women due to the lack of pre-natal medical care.

About Marques Travae 2894 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

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