This article discusses the political relations between construction of Brazil’s national health system (SUS) and communication. Understanding communication as an underdeveloped field of citizens’ rights in Brazil, it proceeds on the hypothesis that the democratic formation of public opinion regarding the SUS is hindered by a media oligopoly in the telecommunication and journalism system. This affects relations between the forces in dispute over construction of the SUS. Drawing on analysis of opinion polls and studies of Brazilian media coverage of the SUS, it argues that communication is a key political determinant in building a social base in support of the SUS and overcoming the impasses identified by the literature. It concludes that the relationship among communication, politics and democracy challenges the SUS to dispute the formation of a public health awareness in the daily lives of Brazilian citizens, as expressed by Giovanni Berlinguer to Brazil’s nascent health sector reform movement in the 1970s.
Communication; Democracy; Public health awareness; SUS