An original study conducted by Brazil’s Ministry of Health demonstrated that the Family Health Program had an effect on the reduction of infant mortality.
By analyzing such data as access to health services, education, and public water supplies and the family’s socioeconomic status, the researchers found that a 10% increase in the program’s coverage of the population led to a 4.6% reduction in the number of children who die before their first birthday.
According to the Minister of Health, Humberto Costa, the conclusions of the study prove that the program is moving in the right direction and deserves more funds.
Costa affirmed that the government plans to spend more on the Family Health Program in poorer municipalities where there are agrarian reform projects, indigenous communities, or communities of descendants of runaway slaves (“quilombolas”).
“What we spend continues to be important, and we have already invested US$ 1.6 billion (4 billion reais) more on basic health care in the years 2003, 2004, and 2005. We increased the number of teams, and we intend to increase them even more.”
The impact of the Family Health Program in reducing infant mortality is only surpassed by access to education, especially female literacy.
The same 10% increase in coverage, when applied to educational programs, succeeds in lowering the rate of infant mortality by 16.8%.
Smaller changes, of around 3%, are produced by a 10% expansion in potable water supplies and access to basic sanitation.
The data refer to the 1990-2002 period, during which the infant mortality rate dropped from 49.7 to 28.91 deaths per 1000 live births.
Through May the Family Health Program assisted 72.5 million people. The municipalities administer the program, and the federal government pays for 50% of the cost of the teams.
There are currently 22,410 teams, each consisting of a physician, nurse, nursing aide, and six community agents. The purpose of the program is to provide health services in the area of prevention, giving orientation to the families.
ABr – www.radiobras.gov.br