Salud Pública de México

The essential health reform in Chile; a reflection on the 1952 process

Francisco Mardones-Restat, Antonio Carlos de Azevedo


The authors claim that the critical health reform in Chilean history was the establishment of the National Health Service (NHS) in 1952. The development of modern Chilean health care since the end of the 19th century is discussed both in terms of the prevailing health situation and the subsequent evolution of institutions and policies, with an emphasis on the social and political conditions that led to the reation of the NHS in 1952. From this analysis and from acomparison of infant mortality rates among Latin American countries during the same period, the authors infer that the 1952 health reform was the social and political benchmark that allowed Chile to exhibit the relatively favorable healthsituation it still enjoys. Using Cavanaugh’s scheme, it is clear that the "first-generation reform" was the reform imposed by the military regime in the early 1980s, which aimed to change the orientation of the health system. Similarly, the"second-generation reform" was that implemented by the democratic administrations of the early 1990s to reverse the harm done by their military predecessors. The rapid aging of the population and the advent of new technologies pose a challenge to the insurance system’s coverage capacity and threaten the sustainability of all health systems. The implementation of universal, comprehensive, collective health systems, managed under the most integrated authority political conditions will allow, is emphasized as an appropriate solution for developed and developing countries alike. 

Palabras clave

Chile; infant mortality; health policy; health systems reform

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Salud Pública de México es una publicación periódica electrónica, bimestral, publicada por el Instituto Nacional de Salud Pública (con domicilio en Avenida Universidad núm. 655, col. Santa María Ahuacatitlán, Cuernavaca, Morelos, C.P. 62100, teléfono 329-3000, página web,, con ISSN: 1606-7916 y Reserva de Derechos al Uso Exclusivo con número: 04-2012-071614550600-203, ambos otorgados por el Instituto Nacional del Derecho de Autor. Editor responsable: Carlos Oropeza Abúndez. Responsable de la versión electrónica: Subdirección de Comunicación Científica y Publicaciones, Avenida Universidad núm. 655, planta baja, col. Santa María Ahuacatitlán, Cuernavaca, Morelos, C.P. 62100, teléfono 329 3000. Fecha de última modificación: 11 de abril de 2019. D.R. © por el sitio: Instituto Nacional de Salud Pública.

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