This study analyzes the role and training of indian health agents as defined by the National Policy for Health Care of Indians Peoples on two Indian reservations in Santa Catarina, Brazil. The health agent's role in primary care is based on mediation between traditional health practices and biomedicine, subsumed in the concept of differentiated care. On both reservations, a large turnover of indigenous health agents and lack of adequate training were observed. The indigenous health agents expressed difficulty in understanding the reasons for their activities, role ambiguity vis-à-vis the community, and communications problems with other health professionals. Considering the national policy guidelines, this study indicates that the provision of differentiated care is precarious and that a dialogue is necessary, with actual participation by all stakeholders in the health services.
South American Indians; Indigenous Health; Primary Health Care