EMERGING HEALTH NEEDS AND
EPIDEMIOLOGICAL RESEARCH IN
INDIGENOUS PEOPLES IN BRAZIL
Carlos E. A. Coimbra Jr. & Ricardo Ventura Santos
The health of indigenous peoples throughout Latin America is the complex outcome of violent sociocultural and environmental changes forged by expansionist population movements. The advance of these frontiers has had an overwhelming effect on indigenous health by introducing novel pathogens that caused serious epidemics, by usurping territory, making subsistence difficult or impossible, and by persecuting and killing individuals, and even entire communities.
It is important to point out that this picture does not apply only to past interethnic relations in Brazil. We have only to look at the recent events that have so severely affected the Yanomamö, whose lands have been invaded by gold miners, and lives shattered by epidemics and massacres, to realize that, as indigenous peoples in Brazil today struggle for physical and cultural survival, they face challenges no less demanding than those of the past. Nor do these problems occur only in the Amazon; they can be found, sometimes in even more intractable form, affecting the daily lives of indigenous groups that live in the more industrialized southern and southeastern regions of the country.
All too little is known about the epidemiological conditions of indigenous peoples in Latin America; relatively little research has been conducted, surveys and censuses are largely nonexistent, and the information systems that report on morbidity and mortality are unreliable. Moreover,