Skoll Foundation


Associação Saúde Criança

Skoll Awardee(s): Vera Cordeiro
Award Year: 2006
Issue Area(s) Addressed: Health, Environmental Sustainability, Education, Economic Opportunity

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“Treating disease is not enough. The real need is to change the family context from poverty and misery to hope and opportunity.”

Sub-Issues: Health Delivery, Integrated Health, Livelihoods, Living Conditions, Post-Secondary Education, Women’s and Girls’ Education Millions of Brazilian children live in urban slums and suffer from poverty-related diseases. Brazil’s overwhelmed public hospitals focus on medical treatment and ignore socioeconomic and psychological problems, frequently releasing children back into the very environment that caused the disease.

The Skoll Awardee: In her work as a physician in a public hospital in Rio de Janeiro, Dr. Vera Cordeiro felt helpless and frustrated when children who had been successfully treated for an infectious disease, later returned to the hospital and died after being re-infected at home. Vera realized that to save these children she had to help entire families. She raffled off her own belongings to fund the launch of Associação Saúde Criança (Children’s Health Association) in 1991. Despite early resistance from hospital administration and social workers, Vera persevered, recruiting and providing intensive training to volunteers who then worked one-on-one with poor families. Saúde Criança has developed an integrated approach, a Family Action Plan that attends to the entire family’s situation in terms of health, income, housing, education, and citizenship. Services include provision of supplies such as milk and diapers, a family food basket, vocational training and placement, and help to improve sanitation. At the time of the Award, 350 families were enrolled, and another 1,150 families were being served by independent centers replicating the Saúde Criança program in three Brazilian states.

Impact since joining the portfolio in 2006:

  • A Georgetown University study found that families participating in Saúde Criança programs achieved durable results – 85 percent decrease in hospitalizations and 92 percent increase in income, up to 5 years after engagement with the program was completed.
  • The model has been replicated at 23 institutions in six Brazilian states, helping more than 50,000 people. Saúde Criança (itself has 10 franchises in six states and an international support office in New York.
  • The methodology is official policy in public hospitals in Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte (Brazil’s third largest city).



© 2015 Skoll Foundation.