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Bull Hist Med. 2008 Summer;82(2):311-54. doi: 10.1353/bhm.0.0015.

Doctors on record: Uruguay's infant mortality stagnation and its remedies, 1895-1945.

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  • 1International Development Studies and Public Health Sciences, University of Toronto, Canada.


Circa 1900 Uruguayan medical authorities prided themselves on their country's health achievement: the lowest recorded infant mortality rate in Latin America and one of the lowest rates in the world. Over the next three decades, however, these doctors' pride suffered blow after blow as Uruguay's infant mortality stagnated at roughly the same 1900 rate, while other countries experienced sustained mortality declines. Even more frustrating was the apparent inadequacy of the measures that physicians themselves had advocated and implemented. This paper explores Uruguay's infant mortality dynamics during the first half of the twentieth century through the observations, acerbic debates, analyses, policy-making, and administrative perspectives of the country's pediatricians and public health experts. Only after infant health began to be addressed as an integral part of Uruguay's burgeoning welfare state in the 1930s did infant mortality rates start to decline once again.

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