guaranteed equal and universal healthcare access has not assured
blacks the same treatment given to whites in Brazil. This is
the opinion of representatives of social organizations linked
to the black movement. They are in Brasília attending
the National Health Seminar on the Black Population.
Lopes, a researcher, presented statistics that illustrate racial
disparities in the health sector. One of her studies shows,
for example, that the number of deaths related to pregnancy,
childbirth, and postpartum complications among women between
10 and 49 years of age is three times greater among blacks than
whites, for lack of prenatal care.
8.9 percent of black women who gave birth in the Northern Region
of Brazil received no prenatal care, as against 6.5 percent
of their white counterparts. In the South and Southeast, this
difference was even greater, double.
In the Northeast,
10.1 percent of black expectant mothers failed to receive prenatal
care, while among whites this percentage was 6.9 percent. And
in the Center-West the difference was 3.9 percent versus 1.8
fact revealed by the study is that while infant mortality was
21 percent greater among black children than white children
in 1980, the difference jumped to 40 percent in 2000. According
to the author of the study, the factors gender and income have
contributed to worsening the situation.
which compiles data from research conducted all over the country,
was prepared for the National Health Foundation, with technical
and financial assistance from the World Bank, government agencies
responsible for the Program to Combat Institutional Racism in
Brazil, and the British Ministry for International Development.
author of the study, it is essential that the race component
be taken into account when defining priorities in terms of government
measures, programs, and policies for the black population in
the health area.
National Seminar on the Health of the Black Population, which
started August 18, in Brasília, "represents an excellent
advance in terms of racial equality," declared the chief
of staff of the Secretariat for the Promotion of Social Equality,
Maria Inés Barbosa.
The event, in her view,
is historic and will gather municipal and state administrators of the Federal
Health System from all over Brazil, researchers, and representatives of civil
The seminar, Barbosa said,
represents an advance, "because it recognizes that we live in a racist
country." She argued that the creation of the Secretariat itself attests
"The State admits
that we live in a racist country. And racism also has negative consequences
for the health of the population."
Barbosa informed that
blacks currently make up 50 percent of the Brazilian population and that early
deaths constitute a conspicuous characteristic of the health of the black
"We have a higher
child mortality rate, a greater risk of maternal death, and a higher incidence
of premature black male deaths, due to violence, for example," she affirmed.
According to her, the
seminar is part of a process that began at the 12th National Health
Conference, held late last year. The Conference was also a landmark, "because
the black population, the black movement, acted cohesively within the conference
and succeeded in raising some issues concerning the health of the black population.
of the National Health Plan, in which the government recognizes that there
exists a difference when it comes to the health of the black population, was
another stage in this process," she pointed out.
It was last November that
President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva placed a wreath of
flowers on the monument honoring Zumbi dos Palmares and launched
the National Policy to Promote Racial Equality, during commemorations
of National Black Awareness Day, at Barriga Mountain, considered
a landmark of liberty by black communities.
At that time, black actor
Milton Gonçalves, who was presented with a copy of the decree creating
the National Policy to Promote Racial Equality, said that he hopes the document
favors race relations in Brazil.
"It is fundamental
that our descendants be included in the processes of production and consumption,
so they can offer more to the country." He added that some practical
steps are basic for this, such as improvements in schools, health, the matter
of political organization, and bringing Afro-Brazilians into the centers of
The Nigerian Ambassador,
Josef Egbuson, commented that the countries of Africa "view with satisfaction
that Brazil is projecting black awareness in a positive way, to the success
and aggrandizement of the Brazilian population. It is an affirmative movement
that the whole world should copy."
On Barriga Mountain, the
Palmares Quilombo (runaway slave community) held out for nearly 100 years
against the onslaughts of sugar plantation owners and Portuguese imperial
soldiers who sought the runaway slaves.
Juliana Andrade works for Agência Brasil (AB), the official
press agency of the Brazilian government. Comments are welcome
from the Portuguese by David Silberstein.