The first idea that comes to mind when we talk about health system is associated with hospital services. However, the SUS offers not only free medical services, but also unify all health sectors to ensure full care of the population. In the SUS are included disease prevention initiatives (Family Health Strategy, vaccination campaigns), regulatory and environmental protection agencies (National Health Surveillance Agency, Epidemiological Surveillance, Sanitary Vigilance), medical field researches (Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, Institute Vital Brazil), hospitals and health centers, blood banks and clinical analysis laboratories. Directly or indirectly, all Brazilians use some programs of the SUS.
The main goal of the SUS is to become the exclusive health care system for all 200 million Brazilians , but 37 million still rely on private insurances because of problems from the public system. The SUS has a small budget for the health expenses ($25.00 Reais per person in a month, or almost CAD$ 12.00 ), ten times less than the budget allocated for health in developed countries. Nevertheless, considering the financial problems, the Unified Health System is consistently improving the access to medical services and the quality of life for Brazilians.
The World Bank published last year an analysis on the 20 years since the creation of the SUS. Despite the World Bank history of support to the privatization of health care, the report seemed in favor of SUS performance in improving the quality of life of Brazilians. According to the document, the creation of the SUS had an important role in improvements in life expectancy, and child, infant and maternal mortality rates over the last 20 years in Brazil. However, the document also reported aspects that still need improvement: access to health care, efficiency and quality of services, clarifying roles across levels of government, efficiency in spending, and more and better health system monitoring and research.
According to the World Health Organization, one year before the creation of the SUS (1990), the life expectancy of Brazilians was 67 years. In 2011, this indicator went to 74 years, an increase of 7 years. Other socioeconomic factors contributed to this change, but the public health system was crucial to this improvement. In 1990, the difference in life expectancy between Brazil (67 years) and United States (75 years) was 8 years. In 2011, this difference decreased to 5 years (Brazil - 74 years, United States - 79 years). However, Brazil is still far behind countries such as Canada and Japan (life expectancy of 82 and 83 years in 2011, respectively), which have great public health systems for decades.
In 2011, The Institute of Applied Economic Research (Instituto de Pesquisa Econômica Aplicada - IPEA) conducted a survey on indicators of social perception about the SUS. Free and universal access was the most touted point (cited by 50.0 % of respondents), and the lack of doctors was the most criticized...