Afro-Brazilians suffer ‘institutionalized discrimination’ in health services, says director of NGO

Besides having less access to health care than whites, the black population also suffers from an”institutionalized discrimination” in public health services in the country, according to the director of the Fundo Baobá, Athayde Motta.


black women Brazil
Athayde Motta

“Somehow, services of the state reproduce the prejudice that is part of the society. Research shows that where the majority of the population is black the service tends to be worse,” says Motta. The thesis defended by Motta, who heads the Fundo Baobá, a nonprofit that enables projects that promote racial equality, has already been felt in firsthand by Marcelo Antonio de Jesus.

An educator in an NGO in São Paulo, 36, de Jesus says that “during exams”, he’s already felt “that there are some doctors that are afraid to touch the patient because he is black. This also occurred with family members. In my case, on one occasion, I went to two different doctors. One of them didn’t even examine me and diagnosed only from what I had told him,” he said.


Marcelo Antonio de Jesus

Eliane Barbosa, a searcher at the Fundação Getúlio Vargas (Getulio Vargas Foundation) in São Paulo that published a study analyzing public policies that address inequality in the country, says that the doctors give different treatment to whites and blacks, but not only in public health services but also in private sectors.

Eliane Barbosa, Fundação Getúlio Vargas

“In some cases doctors believe that black women, for example, are stronger than white women, and that they do not need the same type of care,” said Eliane, who is 40 years old and part of the parcel of 15.2% of blacks who have health insurance in Brazil.

 According to a survey by the Instituto Data Popular, the proportion of whites with access to health insurance is double, or 31.3%.

 “Unconscious racism”

For Eliane, it is not necessarily “a rational bias” by health professionals. “It does not mean they want to discriminate against someone,” she says. “It’s a matter of reference for physicians, generally white men and women. It’s a very deep question, an unconscious reproduction of a racist behavior of society.”

Marcelo Antonio de Jesus, who is an educator, argues that the matter be addressed in medical schools in the country. “What’s necessary is a break in culture. A good part of medical students come from an elite class. It is difficult what these professionals want after tending people in poor neighborhoods. It’s understandable, because they will find a very different reality of living. So education is important,” he says.

Eliane also thinks it’s necessary to include the issue of race in universities. She further reminds us that there are some diseases that are more common among certain groups, “such as high blood pressure among blacks,” she says.

Ascension and discrimination

The ascension of class C (1) in Brazil allowed greater access to a significant part of the black population to income and consumption. But, according to Athayde Motta, that doesn’t mean that racial discrimination has decreased.

“The ascension of class C is transforming the life of this population in several ways. But racial discrimination continues to manifest itself, only now in other places. The prejudice shows up in restaurants and places that blacks did not used to attend,” says Motta.


1. Class C represents families of Brazil’s lower middle class. Class C is composed of 92 million Brazilians and is considered those families or individuals whose monthly income is between R$1,064 and R$4,591 (in Brazilian reais or $591 – $2550.55 in American dollars). Brazil’s elites classes, A and B, have income of more than R$4,591 per month and persons or families earning between R$768($426) and R$1,064 ($591) per month are classified as class D. Class E represents the poorest Brazilians, individuals or families that bring in less than R$768 per month. During the eight-year presidential term of Lula da Silva (2003-2010), it is reported that 39.5 million Brazilians became part of the new lower middle class, an increase of 46.6%. Many of these new members of the lower middle class are part of a growing black middle class in the country.

Source: Cada Minuto

This article was updated on May 15, 2013

About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

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