In Pursuit of Health Equity

A History of Latin American Social Medicine

By Eric D. Carter

308 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 1 table, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-7445-2
    Published: August 2023
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-7446-9
    Published: July 2023
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-6054-5
    Published: July 2023
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-7444-5
    Published: August 2023

Studies in Social Medicine

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Throughout Latin America, social medicine has been widely recognized for its critical perspectives on mainstream understandings of health and for its progressive policy achievements. Nevertheless, it has been an elusive subject: hard to define, with puzzling historical discontinuities and misconceptions about its origins. Drawing on a vast archive and with an ambitious narrative scope that transcends national borders, Eric D. Carter offers the first comprehensive intellectual and political history of the social medicine movement in Latin America, from the early twentieth century to the present day.

While maintaining a consistent focus on health equity, social medicine has evolved with changing conditions in the region. Carter shows how it shaped early Latin American welfare states, declined with the dominance of midcentury technocratic health planning, resurged in the 1970s in solidarity against authoritarian regimes, and later resisted neoliberal reforms of the health sector. He centers socialist and anarchist doctors, political exiles, intellectuals, populist leaders, and rebellious technocrats from Argentina, Chile, Brazil, and other countries who responded to and shaped a dynamic political environment around health equity. The lessons from this history will inform new thinking about how to achieve health equity in the twenty-first century.

About the Author

Eric D. Carter is Edens Professor of Geography and Global Health at Macalester College.
For more information about Eric D. Carter, visit the Author Page.


"A remarkable look at the origins and evolution of a transnational sociomedical perspective in Latin America of great interest to historians of medicine and leaders of social medicine all over the world."—Marcos Cueto, Casa de Oswaldo Cruz, Fiocruz, Brazil

"Timely, lucid, and deeply insightful. Anyone interested in building a more inclusive vision of health equity needs to read this book."—Jeremy Greene, Johns Hopkins University

"Carter offers a sophisticated and original narrative of social medicine in twentieth-century Latin America, integrating findings from stirring interviews with fresh perspectives on existing sources."—Anne-Emanuelle Birn, University of Toronto