Note from BW of Brazil: Racism and racial inequalities exist throughout Brazilian society, so why would the medical industry be any different? Last spring, Brazil became the first country to pay compensation as a result of a maternal death, and medical inequality in relation to race has long been an issue emphasized by black women activists who have urged government officials to take action on this problem. Numerous studies over the years have pointed out consistent inequalities found in the medical treatment that the black population receives in comparison to whites and the medical industry can no longer ignore these reports. As such, a campaign has been launched to address these issues and alert medical professionals of how beliefs and stereotypes can lead to grave consequences for the black population, specifically black women. See the report below.
Ministry of Health launches campaign against racism in public hospitals
Courtesy of Bem Estar with contribution from Catarina Alencastro
60% of maternal deaths in SUS units are black, says Health. Government encourages people to report discrimination by calling 136.
The Ministry of Health and the Human Rights Secretariat of the Presidency launched on the 25th, in Brasília, the first advertising campaign against racism directed at professionals and patients of the public health system. Government data show, for example, that 60% of deaths of mothers who gave birth in hospitals of the Sistema Único de Saúde (SUS or Unified Health System) occurred among black women and 34% among white. In the first week of life, mortality is also higher among black children – 47% of cases. Among white women, it’s 36%.
The advertisements of the campaign, “Racismo faz mal à Saúde. Denuncie!” (Racism is bad for your health. Denounce it) began to be aired on television, radio, print newspaper, magazines and social networks on Tuesday, as well as the distribution of pamphlets in hospitals. The actions continued until the 30th of November.
Don’t remain silent – campaign of confronting racism in SUS – 2014
The Minister of Health Arthur Chioro said that consciousness raising was prompted by reports of discrimination in the health unit and that “the data are striking and show how inequality brings more disease, more suffering and more deaths.” According to him “institutional racism” must be fought.
“We have some differences that show themselves present by diversity, the presence of diabetes, hypertension, presence of fibroids, sickle cell anemia. But part of the unequal indicators that we have are justified due to the unequal access, by the presence still of much prejudice and much institutional racism, which is why this campaign works,” he said.
The folder also points out that more white women have companions in childbirth in SUS units. They were 46.2%, compared with 27% of black mothers.
Among those tended to by SUS, 56% of preta (black) and 55% of parda (brown) mothers said that they received less prenatal care than brancas (white women). Orientation on breastfeeding only reached 62% of the negras (pretas and pardas) served by SUS, while 78% of brancas had access to that service.
“Being different is one thing. Now, that spills over into manifestations of prejudice and racism, that causes a black woman to undergo pain, waiting time or receiving a degree of orientation on breastfeeding different than a white woman is absolutely unacceptable,” said Chioro in a press conference after the launching ceremony of the campaign.
The photo of a black woman making a silence gesture with her index finger over her mouth, referring to nurse professionals in hospitals, is the image that illustrates the material of the campaign. The impact phrase is “não fique em silêncio” (don’t remain silent). With this the ministry intends to encourage people to report any situation involving racial discrimination in the units through the “Disque Saúde 136” (Health Hotline 136).
Through this phone, people can also get information about the most common diseases among blacks. Among examples, are sickle cell disease (diagnosed early by the “foot test”), with an incidence that reaches 10% in this population, compared with 2% to 6% in the other groups. According to the government, 40,000 people are treated for this disease by SUS today.
The ministry informed that Disque Saúde professionals were trained to identify the complaints characterized as racism, then refer cases to competent organs. According Chioro, the necessary actions are taken according to the situation.
“They can be from taking police action or denouncing it to the public prosecutor, it could be opening administrative proceedings against professionals and also strong educational dimension.”
The minister of the Secretariat of Human Rights, Ideli Salvatti, who was also present at the launch of the campaign, said that racial discrimination is reflected in the daily lives of people.
“The [phone] 136, this hot line of racism, will contribute because it adds to the [dial] 180, of the women, and [dial] 100 of human rights, allowing us to welcome participation of the society to search the overcoming of all forms of discrimination, violence and racism, because in reality racism also presents itself in a multifaceted (manner),” said the minister.