Revista Panamericana de Salud Pública
Print version ISSN 1020-4989
HOMEDES, Nuria and UGALDE, Antonio. Neoliberal reforms in health services in Latin America: a critical view from two case studies. Rev Panam Salud Publica [online]. 2005, vol.17, n.3, pp. 210-220. ISSN 1020-4989. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S1020-49892005000300012.
Neoliberal reforms have promoted privatization and decentralization as strategies to improve equity, efficiency, and the quality of health services. In this piece the impact of these reforms in Latin America is critically analyzed, and the impacts of privatization in Colombia and of decentralization in Mexico are detailed. These two cases show that after 10 years of privatization in Colombia and 20 years of decentralization in Mexico the reforms have had the opposite of the desired effect: They have not improved equity, have increased health expenditures, have not increased efficiency, and have not shown a positive impact on quality. Public health programs in Colombia have deteriorated, while decentralization in Mexico has had a very high cost, without achieving the proposed objectives. It is officially accepted that decentralization in Mexico has increased inequity, and that new reforms implemented in 2003 promote vertical programs. Health systems based on regulated competition are not the most suitable ones for Latin America. Latin American countries should improve their health systems in line with the principles stated in the Declaration of Alma Ata and according to their own national experiences.
Keywords : health sector reform; decentralization; privatization; Latin America; Colombia; Mexico.