Rural Health Care in Mexico?

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  27 Sep 1974:
Vol. 185, Issue 4157, pp. 1131-1137
DOI: 10.1126/science.185.4157.1131


A very large percentage of Mexico's population living in rural areas lacks resources for health care. Any new effort to provide such care must emphasize the health of the infant population because of the high percentage of infants in the country. Plans made at the national level have not been correlated with the conditions that exist in rural areas. For example, the majority of university programs are oriented toward urban medical practice, and the construction of more schools of medicine to solve the problem of doctors in rural areas is based on a mistaken premise. This problem has not been solved even in developed countries such as the United States where, as in Mexico, graduates in medicine migrate to the cities where optimal conditions are met for practicing the type of medicine for which they have been trained. Furthermore, it is both expensive and illogical to maintain urban doctors in rural areas where they cannot practice their profession for lack of resources; to do so is to deny the purpose of their education (27). Conventional schools of medicine, for reasons of investment and of structure, should teach only very selected groups of students who, on finishing their training, are fully capacitated to practice specialized medicine. A different system is required if we are to provide adequate health care in the rural communities. A system such as that described herein, adapted to the real need of rural communities, would avoid the necessity to create dysfunctional bureaucracies and would not destroy those institutions which have proved useful in the past. This study should be considered as one of the many pilot programs that should be initiated in order to determine the type of program that would best solve the problem of health care in rural Mexico. Other programs already being considered at the National Autonomous University of Mexico include the A36 plan of the Faculty of Medicine, now in operation; the work of C. Biro carried out in Netzahualcoyotl City (both focused on providing medical care to the urban poor); and the Open University program.

Unless an efficient program designed to meet the needs of rural communities is quickly put into operation, Mexico will, in the near future, be facing the same problems now confronting Southeast Asia.