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Sao Paulo Med J. 2011 Mar;129(2):77-84.

Ministers of Health: short-term tenure for long-term goals?

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Centro Paulista de Economia da Saúde, Universidade Federal de São Paulo, Brazil.



Healthcare investments should consider short and long-term demands. The objectives here were to compare the average tenures of ministers of health in Brazil and in another 22 countries and to evaluate the relationship between ministers' tenures and a number of indicators.


Descriptive study conducted at Centro Paulista de Economia da Saúde (CPES).


Twenty-two countries with the highest Human Development Indices (HDIs) and Brazil were included. The number of ministers over the past 20 years was investigated through each country's Ministry of Health website. Pearson's correlation coefficient was used to compare the number of ministers in each country with that country's indicators. The Mann-Whitney test was used to compare ministers' tenures in Brazil and other countries.


The mean tenure (standard deviation, SD) of Brazilian ministers of health was 15 (12) months, a period that is statistically significantly shorter than the mean tenure of 33 (18) months in the other 22 countries (P < 0.05). There was a moderate and statistically significant positive correlation between the number of ministers and mortality rates for several conditions. The number of ministers also presented moderate and statistically significant negative correlations with per capita total healthcare expenditure (r = -0.567) and with per capita government healthcare expenditure (r = -0.530).


On average, ministers of health have extremely short tenures. There is an urgent need to think and plan healthcare systems from a long-term perspective.

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