Date of Completion

Summer 8-2011

Thesis Advisor(s)

Pamela Erickson


Biology | Community Health and Preventive Medicine | Other Life Sciences | Other Public Health


This study was conducted in Montevideo, Uruguay, where I examined the actions that the country and society as a whole, its various communities, the Uruguayan government, and the people take in order to prevent disease and promote a healthy society. An ethnographic experiential and evidence-based approach, including personal experience, interviews, and official government documents, was used to fully describe the way the system operates. Due to Uruguay's demographic characteristics, particular attention was paid to children and adolescents. For this thesis, Uruguay is described in terms of its history, physical and mental health issues, society's shared health concerns, and its vulnerable groups, which include mothers, children, and the disabled. Underlying factors that contribute to health concerns are also described, including behavior, infection, geography, environment, access to medical care, and socio-economic-cultural factors. Population interventions involve both preventative and curative efforts, with specific programs designed for nutrition and vaccinations. A specific example is Uruguay's intervention of dengue, a mosquito-borne infectious disease. While its neighboring country of Argentina is greatly affected by dengue, Uruguay's interventions against the fever have resulted in virtually no cases of dengue. The approaches that are thoroughly examined are the country's health care, delivery of services, and their traditional public health approach, which involves target communities/populations, disease control, food and drug safety, nutrition, and social policy. This thesis attempts to show that, contrary to popular belief, social policy is strongly related to health. Areas of social policy that are examined include the promotion of social justice and happiness, increasing convenience, economic growth, services for the poor, and education. For Uruguay, the Programa de Educación Sexual is a program that aims to ensure healthy child development. This is part of the government's effort against youth emigration. Despite the fact that Uruguay is a small country, it is viewed globally as an important model country due to its reform in the health care system and the many programs and interventions that the government and private organizations have launched for the care and progress of the people of Uruguay.