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Mortality problems in Brazil and in Germany: past-present-future. Learning from each other?

Problemas de mortalidade no Brasil e na Alemanha: passado-presente-futuro. Aprendendo um do outro?

This article was written by a Swiss-German historical demographer after having visited different Brazilian Universities in 1984 as a guest-professor. It aims at promoting a real dialog between developed and developing countries, commencing the discussion with the question: Can we learn from each other? An affirmative answer is given, but not in the superficial manner in which the discussion partners simply want to give each other some "good advice" or in which the one declares his country's own development to be the solely valid standard. Three points are emphasized: 1. Using infant mortality in S. Paulo from 1908 to 1983 as an example, it is shown that Brazil has at its disposal excellent, highly varied research literature that is unjustifiably unknown to us (in Europe) for the most part. Brazil by no means needs our tutoring lessons as regards the causal relationships; rather, we could learn two things from Brazil about this. For one, it becomes clear that our almost exclusively medical-biological view is inappropriate for passing a judgment on the present-day problems in Brazil and that any conclusions so derived are thus only transferable to a limited extent. For another, we need to reinterpret the history of infant mortality in our own countries up to the past few decades in a much more encompassing "Brazilian" sense. 2. A fruitful dialog can only take place if both partners frankly present their problems. For this reason, the article refers with much emprasis to our present problems in dealing with death and dying - problems arising near the end of the demographic and epidemiologic transitions: the superanuation of the population, chronic-incurable illnesses as the main causes of death, the manifold dependencies of more and more elderly and really old people at the end of a long life. Brazil seems to be catching up to us in this and will be confronted with these problems sooner or later. A far-sighted discussion already at this time seems thus to be useful. 3. The article, however, does not want to conclude with the rather depressing state of affairs of problems alternatingly superseding each other. Despite the caution which definitely has a place when prognoses are being made on the basis of extrapolations from historical findings, the foreseeable development especially of the epidemiologic transition in the direction of a rectangular survival curve does nevertheless provide good reason for being rather optimistic towards the future: first in regards to the development in our own countries, but then - assuming that the present similar tendencies of development are stuck to - also in regard to Brazil.

Mortality; Epidemiology

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