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Date Submitted

Spring 4-15-2015

Research Mentor and Department

Peter Benson




In 1988, after the 1985 termination of the military dictatorship in Brazil, the constitution was rewritten with to guarantee individual rights to all citizens of Brazil. Among the various other rights that the new constitution protected, anyone in the country of Brazil was granted the right to government-funded healthcare under the regulation of the Unified Healthcare System, SUS. Because of structural inequalities in Brazil as well as the rise of privatized healthcare, equal access to healthcare is not a reality in modern-day Brazil. Many citizens who live in the periphery are limited to understaffed and underfunded primary health centers.

This monograph explores the healing methods that are intrinsic to the Brazilian Umbanda religion and the connections that are being made between Umbanda and SUS in the attempt to improve universal healthcare access. Through interviews, observations, and gira participation, this paper not only looks at past, present, and future healthcare programs that involve the bidirectional flow of healthcare knowledge between terreiros and health centers, but also concludes that integrating holistic, traditional healing into the conventional biomedical system has the potential to improve the quality of healthcare for all citizens. This paper argues, however, that this potential is limited by the heavy stigmatization and marginalization of the populations that develop these treatments and lack of continuity of program development as a result of government structure. The topic is then contextualized within the larger framework of healthcare in Brazil through a discussion of João Biehl’s research on the Brazilian AIDS initiative.

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