Health care delivered to Portuguese children. The past, present and new challenges.

J M Palminha, L Lemos, M Cordeiro


The socio-economic development of a country as well as the state of its health, its communications network, cultural level and health care organisation together affect what is known as the health indicators. Portugal belongs to the group of UNICEF countries with the best indicators in what concerns infant mortality and death below the age of five. It is still, however, 25th and 28th respectively at world level. The authors review some of the factors which have most contributed towards the progress of the indicators over the last twenty years, namely, the role played by general practitioners, the creation of health centers, the development of a maternal-infant assistance programme and the activity of Central and District Hospitals. They analyse the recent maternal-infant programme and discuss the main short and mid-term problems in the perinatal and paediatric age groups. The socio-economic changes seen in Portuguese society, together with sociological changes and those observed in the field of pathology, call for a new approach in the organisation of care which includes the need for a new dialogue between the different health structures of a society, namely, through maintaining the functional coordinating maternal-infant units, the creation of the same units for paediatrics, new efforts by the general paediatrician, the community paediatrician and the sub-specialised paediatrician together with the general practitioners within a specific action programme of a Health Unit.

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