All around the world, there are many gender inequalities taking place right now. For my blog I decided to focus on the problems pertaining to women’s poor maternal health in Brazil. In this post, I will talk about how the women and girls there are treated. Brazil has many health problems, one of them having a big effect on women. I will investigate the health topic further by using the critical medical anthropology theory. In turn, this perspective will help to see the social gradient determinants that influence this topic.
Women are constantly being mistreated and given less opportunities. A specific opportunity that they are being deprived of in Brazil is proper health care. There are not a lot of chances for women to get the treatment that they need. There are many obstacles that Brazil has had in trying to go about a better feminist approach to maternal health. That is because of the roles politicians play. The government is highly oppressive towards women and minorities. There is constant discrimination in what is being done in work, education, and other things in general. There is not enough representation for them in economic, political, and public areas in Brazil. Due to that, there are these inequalities that come about. (CFFP 2017)
The progress of women being equal to their counterpart has not advanced in the past recent years. However, the country states that it has advanced in education, maternal health, and gender equality. But where is this proof? The proof that we are seeing is that between twenty-five and fifty percent of women have been abused or violated by their partner. There are statistics showing that Brazil has the fifth highest rate of femicide. Femicide is when a women or girl is murdered due to their gender. How can they say that there is improvement for women with the number of female deaths being that high? Women are also more educated than men, but for some reason, they are paid less and have fewer employment opportunities. How is it that two-thirds of the university graduates are women, but they earn half of what men make? It has to do with the government and the system in place. If you look at the representation of women in Brazil’s Congress, there are only eight to nine percent of them. In the Senate, there is about thirteen percent of females in the parliament. If women are not in these seats, their opinion does not get shared as often. Their problems are put aside to deal with what the majority of the men in these seats are concerned about. (Ceratti 2017)
One in five women give birth early on during their adolescent. More girls are becoming pregnant due to the social issues and poverty problems that they have to face. Teenagers and Afro-Brazilians have the highest chances of getting pregnant early on. That is because of the poor areas that they live in. Getting pregnant early increases the difficulties that they will have to face because of the poor maternal health care that they have in Brazil. There is barely a middle class in Brazil. There are a few rich people at the top and a larger sum of poor people everywhere else. There is less education, although women are more educated than men. There are also shorter lifespans for women in Brazil compared to other countries, with the average being sixty years old. The average single women in Brazil has given as many as ten births. However, the social and economic factors have a tremendous effect on this. (Beckmann 2016) This is probably why there are so many cases where illegal abortions have caused maternal deaths and so many preterm deliveries are happening.
The healthcare services in Brazil are lacking in maternal health. Women do not get the right treatment that they need during deliver and pregnancy. Nurses and doctors have low wages and there is not enough to keep up with all these births. Several women can be in the same hospital room giving birth. Maternal facilities are also outdated and lacking in proper equipment. Some of the healthcare providers are not even fully qualified to perform some forms of care, like neonatal skin and cord care. That is probably why there are sixty-eight percent of neonatal related infant deaths. The providers even said that they feel that there should be better knowledge provided to them, so they in turn can provide better care.
Another alarming number is that, fifty percent of births are delivered through C-section (Caesarean section). C-section is where the mother’s abdomen and uterus are cut to deliver the baby. That is probably why eighty-nine percent of infants do not survive. That is a very high number for any place. Infant deaths are the reason for ninety percent of the death for kids that are younger than the age of five. (The Lancet 2011)
This is why the critical medical anthropological theory can best help explain this problem. We learned that this theory asks what inequalities in political, economic, or social power lead to the outcomes for particular groups of people? (Lecture 4 Introducing Theory 3: Critical Medical Anthropological Theory, slide 1) Seeing that women in poor areas are most affected by this issue, you can see how it relates to economics. Seeing that the people in power are mostly male, women’s issues might not be of much concern, which shows the inequality in political power.
This theory tries to approach the situation to improve population health and promote equality in health. It is one of the main perspectives that is used to look at health issues, illnesses, and wellbeing’s of particular groups of people. This theory came about due to philosophers seeing problems with social research and how policies are not really helping the public. It uses methods to influence social, economic, and political factors in the health system. (Witeska 2015)
Critical medical anthropology can help us try to improve the maternal health in Brazil. With it we can see what factors come into play to cause these issues. We can also see what social determinants are involved and how it can be changed. It can help us study the medical system and see if there are steps that can be used to prevent such high rates of death in infants and women. The importance of this theory is that we can examine the sickness or health problem with an interdisciplinary approach, where it looks at multiply factors instead of just one. This will help to respond to the global and domestic power situation happening in Brazil. Another significance of this theory is that it can help show the cultural changes that need to take place in the healthcare organizations and the community in general to make sure that women are being treated better. (Soba 2011)
Analyzing Brazil’s issue with maternal health, we seen that to figure out the best solution we would need to hold social determinants as an important factor for the health of humans. The social gradient determinant helps to show the life expectancy and how health policies are facing economic problems. We know that being poor from a social and economic point of view will have an effect on a person’s life. Lower status people have higher chances of having an illness or dying early. This determinant has produced evidence that better education, employment, good housing, and secure polices and laws, have a positive effect of a person’s well-being. Problems in these areas cause disadvantages for people. (WHO 2003) We see that with how life is for Brazilian women. They have better education than men, but due to their gender they are given less opportunities than them. Because they are women, they have less chances of getting employment. Not having employment means you have less money to live off of. This cause bad housing and worse situations for your health. The laws and policies are made by a bunch of men, so of course there is bias in them. They are not really thinking about what benefits or harms women because they are not able to relate. In Brazil, they also hold women at a lesser position in general.
These inequalities that we see in the world right now can be solved if we look at the social determinants of the inequalities. The deprivation of certain materials, like good healthcare, money, housing, and etc., have shown that they have a tremendous effect on the challenges people face. Public policy in Brazil has to also be looked at to see what can be done to change the events that are taking place with maternal health right now. Seeing that I am looking at maternal health, I can use this determinant to see life expectancy at birth as well. (Marmot 2005)
Seeing that the health sector is having such bad numbers with maternal health shows us that the socioeconomic problems are high in Brazil. Newborns are dying at such a high rate. There are also high numbers of C-sections being performed on women giving birth. C-sections in themselves are very dangerous due to what is requires. Without proper healthcare, the woman can die during this process. Seeing that the women generally come from poor areas means that there is not proper healthcare though. Due to that a lot of women die and so do the infants. If we try to change these developments, we can help improve the health of the child and the mother. We just need to make sure that the people in power see this as a real issue because they are the ones that are making the laws and polies that healthcare providers and the community will be following. (AJPH 2010)
Maternal health is important because it ensures the safely and well-being of mother and children. Without them, we would not have offsprings and continuations of generations. Single women are giving birth ten times in their lifetime. There are eighty-nine percent of the infants that do not survive. The birth of the infant is given fifty percent through C-section, which is a very dangerous surgery for the woman. There are a lot of risks involved, especially if there is not proper healthcare being provided, which is usually the case because of the economical disadvantage most of the women have. They come from poor areas in Brazil and do not have the necessary funds to ensure their safety or their babies. A lot of women even look to having illegal abortions because of financial difficulty. By looking at all this, I have seen that maternal health is a big issue in Brazil. The policies and laws have to be looked at to see how a better environment and opportunities can be created for women in Brazil. Through this class, I learned that to come up with a solution, we have to look at the problems causing it and see multiply approach to go to it with. Using the critical medical anthropological theory with the social gradient determinants, maternal health problems can be stopped and fixed. If we use these interdisciplinary lens, we can all work together to create a better environment for women and make sure that they have good maternal health.
- Centre for Feminist Foreign Policy. (2017). GENDER TROUBLE: SOURCES OF INEQUALITY IN BRAZILIAN INSTITUTIONS AND POLITICAL REPRESENTATION. Retrieved from https://centreforfeministforeignpolicy.org/journal/2017/12/8/brazils-gender-trouble-sources-of-inequality-in-brazilian-institutions-and-political-representation
- Ceratti, M.K. (2017). What Does It Mean to Be a Woman in Brazil? The Answer Will Surprise You. Retrieved from http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2017/03/08/ser-mujer-brasil
- Beckmann, C.A. (2016). Maternal-child health in Brazil. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3650322
- The Lancet Staff. (2011). Maternal and child health in Brazil: progress and challenges. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0140673611601384
- ANP 270. Lecture 4 Introducing Theory 3: Critical Medical Anthropological Theory. Slide 1. Retrieved from http://anthropology.msu.edu/anp270-us18/lecture-videos/critical-medical-anthropological-theory/
- Witeska, M.A. (2015). Critical Medical Anthropology–a voice for just and equitable healthcare. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26094543
- Soba, E.L. (2011) Theories, Applications, and Methods. Chapter One- Medical Anthropology in Disciplinary Context: Definitional Struggles and Key Debates. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary-wiley-com.proxy2.cl.msu.edu/doi/pdf/10.1002/9781444395303.ch1
- World Health Organization. (2003). Social Determinants of Health: The Solid Facts. Retrieved from http://anthropology.msu.edu/anp270-us18/files/2015/05/Soc-Determs-of-Hlth-the-solid-facts-WHO-2003.pdf
- Marmot, M. (2005). Social determinants of health inequalities. Retrieved from http://anthropology.msu.edu/anp270-us18/files/2015/05/Social-determinants-of-health-inqualities-Marmot-2005.pdf
- American Public Health Association. (2010). Recent Trends in Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health in Brazil: Progress Toward Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5. Retrieved from https://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/full/10.2105/AJPH.2010.196816