International Health Care Systems

Brazil’s Health Care System and the World Cup

The World Cup starts June 12 in Brazil.  Although the event is sure to draw attention around the world, protesters have taken to the streets demanding that Brazil use the money for these events to improve the countries, health care and education services it provides to its citizens.  Brazil’s projected budget for hosting the World Cup is $13.3 billion, and this figure does not even count the $18 billion Brazil is estimated to spend to host the Olympics


Today, I review Brazil’s health system.  My initial post on Brazil’s health care system is here, but this post adds more recent content and updates some health care statitsics.

System Overview

Pharmafile provides a high-level overview of Brazil’s health care system.

The provision of public healthcare is a central tenet of the Brazilian Constitution: Article 196 declares that “health is a right of all and a duty of the State”, making the government legally responsible for providing services to its citizens free of charge.

The aspirations of this constitutional article are admirable – but in practice, its effective implementation has been restricted since day one by limited resources and the sheer size of the country.

Brazil has a population of almost 200 million people spread across a region twice as big as the European Union. The country is split into 27 states and over 5,500 cities, with health councils at national, state and city levels.

The national health service is known as the Unified Health System (SUS [Sistema Único de Saúde]), and a 2011 report in the Economist magazine described its funding as “an inadequate hotchpotch, part-state, part-federal, [which] varies wildly from place to place.”


Health technology assessment is conducted by Commission of Incorporation of Technologies (CONITEC).  The agency was established in 2011.  When evaluating new technologies (e.g., pharmaceutical produces and devices) CONITEC takes into account safety, efficacy, cost-effectiveness and budget impact.


From the CIA World Factbook:


  • Brazil GDP per person: $12,100
  • Population below the poverty line: 21.4%
  • Brazil’s Population: 202.7 million

Health Care

  • Health care spending as a share of GDP: 8.9%
  • Life expectancy at birth: 73.3 years
  • Infant Mortality Rate: 19.21 deaths per 1000 live births
  • Number of hospital beds per 1,000 (global average): 2.3
  • Physicians per 10,000 : 17.6




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