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Paulo Freire influenced health workers for 5 decades and inspired the fight to create SUS

Paulo Freire influenced health workers for 5 decades and inspired the fight to create SUS

The legacy of the Pernambuco thinker, who turns 100 next Sunday (19), is not limited to the field of education



Daniel Giovannaz and Anna Paula Evangelista, Brazil in fact One of the most important Brazilian thinkers, Paulo Freire (1921-1987) will turn 100 next Sunday (19). The legacy of the author of The Pedagogy of the Oppressed, among other masterpieces, is not limited to the classroom.

Amid the centenary celebrations, the SUS reporter spoke with Vera Joana Bornstein, a professor and researcher at the Joaquim Venâncio Polytechnic School of Health (EPSJV), associated with the Oswaldo Cruz (Fiocruz) Foundation.

In her report, the contributions of Freire’s work to the right to health were clear, even inspiring the struggle for a Unified Health System (SUS).

Vera Joanna says she came into contact with Freire’s thought in the 1970s, through the al-Qaeda educational movement, associated with the National Conference of Brazilian Bishops (CNBB). The idea of ​​the movement was to serve rural communities through radio programmes.

“I was amazed by the critical pedagogical perspective, which sought, through the problematic of reality, to deepen the understanding of the causes of the problems afflicting the population, to open space for resentment in the face of inequality, to seek collective solutions and transform reality,” she reports.

Freire’s work emphasized that the structural problems of society would not be solved individually. In his words, “No one frees anyone, no one sets freedom alone; people free themselves in communion.”

Popular education contrasts with the authoritarian or “banking” model, which legitimizes the status quo and assumes a hierarchy of knowledge, one transmitting and receiving the other. The perspective defended by Freire, on the contrary, concerns social justice, diversity, tolerance and affection.

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“Although Paulo Freire initially applied his knowledge to education, in the 1970s I noticed that many health workers were already familiar with the popular education proposal. Especially those who developed community health projects,” the EPSJV professor recalls.

These workers and popular leaders began to question the biomedical model centered on disease and hospital and promoted what was called at the time community health.

Vera Joanna Bornstein says, “There were many experiences of interiorization and suburban work, often voluntary. They approached popular education and promoted the right to health and, later, the struggle for the creation of the SUS.”

In the field of health, popular education opposes the authoritarianism found in health culture and seeks to value popular knowledge and understand the concrete experiences of the population, based on their experiences.

“This attitude, in primary care, is reflected in the performance of those workers, who are not limited to specific health issues and seek to work on the causes of health problems, which are often found in other areas,” says the researcher.

Vera Joanna says Freire’s thought inspires the building of autonomy, popular participation and an appreciation of traditional healthcare practices, such as knowledge of medicinal plants.

He concludes that “Popular education starts from people’s previous knowledge, from their paths and reality, to build new knowledge. It is an liberating perspective.”

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