Access to Water, Sanitation,
and Public Health Services
among Urban Poor in Maceio, Brazil
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Access to water, sanitation, and public health services is a key indicator of quality of life, and these resources are greatly limited for the urban poor in Maceio, Brazil.
Maceio, the capital of Alagoas state, is an environment rich in natural resources and culture. A sharp rise in population, new construction, and globalized business have made a marked impact on the city, since its founding in 1815. Despite development, the urban poor struggle to advance, unable to afford the new standards of modern living, including finding the means of accumulating income, the challenges of retaining good health, and seeking quality access to basic needs.
Never designed for its current population, Maceio‟s original infrastructure is limited, and its ability to provide services to the entire community is severely strained.
This field study, based on field research in 2008 and 2009, examines the type of access impoverished citizens have to resources in urban areas of Maceio looking at three critical resources: water, sanitation and healthcare.
The thesis investigates whether lack of access to clean water, sanitation, and efficient health care led to population vulnerabilities to, in particular, waterborne and hygiene-related diseases, and what level of care was available to those affected by disease.
Using data gathering, primarily through interviews and participant observation, I was able to determine the proximal access to resources and services to the poor, and through these indicators, make connections between that access and the occurrence of disease in the population.
Although the study is meant to be anthropological rather than epidemiological, this observation of the “diseases of poverty” interprets various diseases as both widespread in the studied population, and a product of social inequality.
The imbalance of access uncovered during my fieldwork illuminates the growing concern in public health that unnecessary suffering and premature death, typically among the poor, still exists in modern Brazil. Inequality among those who greatly need services is rampant, yet the developing nation concentrates its expenditures on alternate priorities.