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Revista Panamericana de Salud Pública

Print version ISSN 1020-4989

Abstract

VERGARA, Carlos. The context surrounding health sector reforms. Rev Panam Salud Publica [online]. 2000, vol.8, n.1-2, pp. 7-12. ISSN 1020-4989.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S1020-49892000000700004.

In Latin America, health sector reforms have gone hand in hand with social and economic trends during the latter half of the twentieth century and have reflected the particular concept of "development" that has been in vogue at different times. Economic stagnation and increased social spending, both hallmarks of the 1960s, led to the decline of the "import substitution" development model, which had prevailed since the beginning of the century, and slowly gave way in the 1980s to the "globalization"model. From the earlier model, a transition took place toward a restructuring of production and a series of economic adjustment policies that led, ironically, to an increase in poverty in Latin America. Implementation of the new model has occurred in two phases. The first, known as the "social reform" or "first generation "phase, sprang from the notion that poverty is the sum of a number of material shortages that can be corrected through an equitable redistribution of a fixed volume of goods belonging to society. This conceptual framework, which was completely devoid of all historical linkages and separated from economic policy, led to social policies whose entire purpose was to mitigate poverty through subsidies targeting the poorest persons in the society. In the second phase of the globalization model, which arose in the 1990s and became known as the "second generation" or "postadjustment" phase, new economic rules came into play that were based primarily on international competition, efficiency in production, and openness and fairness in the capital markets. And if during the initial stage the conceptual strategy behind all social policy was to fight poverty, in the second stage the strategy became one of achieving equity, which was no longer interpreted as the even distribution of a fixed volume of capital goods, but as the sustained provision of greater and better opportunities for all. Having grown accustomed to the protectionism inherent in the earlier development model, Latin American societies today feel threatened by a new model that offers them no social safety net. The feasibility of economic and social reform policies during the second phase, which reflect the demands of a "globalized" world, thus depends on the ability to overcome people's lack of trust and to garner the support of a political, social, and institutional majority.

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