On the 25th Anniversary of ALAMES


  • Saul Franco Universidad Nacional de Colombia


Twenty five years ago, in a peaceful rural corner of Ouro Preto, Brazil, twenty people decided to establish the Latin American Association of Social Medicine (ALAMES). We were searching for new theoretical horizons and better health conditions for the people of our region. Twenty of us signed the declaration, but there were hundreds at the Ouro Preto meeting and thousands more who were committed to and interested in the new organization. We were cognizant of what had preceded this event. We knew that 140 years before us a group of German revolutionaries had undertaken a radical reform of thinking and practice in health services and education. Their ideas had not disappeared; they remained alive in several countries and were embodied in the work of thinkers like Giovanni Berlinguer. We knew that in our continent, recently hit by the systemic crisis of capitalism in the 1970’s and burdened by a massive external debt, the countries of the southern cone were struggling to emerge from dark and bloody military dictatorships. Revolutionary winds were sweeping across Central America and the Caribbean. We were also conscious that a social science component – intentionally functional and instrumental in character – had recently been introduced into the curriculum for training health care professionals. Nonetheless the training and practice of health care professionals remained dominated by a disease-centered theoretical perspective and a bio-centric logic. Teaching was more concerned with the interests of the established powers than those of the impoverished majorities.