The Graduate Program in Preventive Medicine was launched simultaneously with the Department of Social Medicine at FMRP-USP in 1971, being the first Graduate Course “stricto sensu” in Brazil in this area. The program was inspired by the history of the Department’s founder, Prof. José Pedreira Lima de Freitas, whose scientific investigations related to Chagas Disease contributed significantly to the eradication of this disease across the American continent. For this reason, at that time, the Program aimed at training medical professors and researchers focusing on prevention and equipped with tools from epidemiology and statistics.
In 1979, in parallel with the foundation of the Brazilian Association of Collective Health (ABRASCO), the program started addressing the understanding of the social determinants of diseases and established an additional line of research focused on Health Planning and Management.
In this first phase, the Program trained professors and researchers and produced scientific contributions related to Chagas disease and other heart diseases, tuberculosis, leprosy, maternal and perinatal mortality, malnutrition, among other topics of great social relevance. The Program also developed techniques for the application in household surveys, which proved to be extremely useful in the evaluation of population morbidity.
In 1997 and 1998, the Department of Social Medicine lost a substantial part of its professors due to retirements and deaths. At the same time, the interest of the medical professionals in residency in sanitation was in decline, which led to a reformulation in the Program.
At that time, the Family Health Program, created in 1994, became prominent in Brazil. For this reason, the Department of Social Medicine decided to join this cause, which resulted in the extinction of the Residency in Preventive Medicine and the creation of the Residency in Family Medicine, which now has a more interdisciplinary approach and focuses on Primary Health Care.
For these reasons, in 2001 the Program was renamed as Graduate Program in Community Health, initially with the master’s degree, and in 2010, the Ph.D. program was approved by the University of São Paulo and CAPES.
In this second phase of the Program’s history, in addition to the traditional lines of research and training in the epidemiology of infectious diseases, statistics, and health planning, other lines were added, in line with the phenomenon of demographic and epidemiological transition through which Brazil and other developing countries were crossing over. Thus, the aging of the population, the increase in the prevalence and mortality due to chronic diseases, the incidence and mortality due to neoplasms and external causes, the expansion of hospital infections and microbial resistance led the Program to establish lines and research projects aimed at understanding and coping with these conditions. In this period, original scientific contributions were highlighted regarding the understanding, prevention, and control of obesity, diabetes mellitus, traffic accidents, poor delivery and birth conditions, aging and associated conditions, hospital pneumonia, and also related to the development of Bayesian statistical evaluation tools and the implementation and evaluation of the Family Health Strategy.
However, as Brazil had not yet completed its epidemiological transition, in this second phase, the Program kept studying and fighting the old health problems such as tuberculosis, arboviruses, viral hepatitis, acute diarrhea in children, low vaccination coverage, among others. In this regard, the Program advisor was responsible for implementing the supervising treatment strategy for tuberculosis at the national level (DOTs strategy), which has been contributing to reducing the incidence and mortality of this disease in the country.
In 2015, the United Nations (UN) along with the 193 member states publicly launched the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), comprising 169 Goals to be supported by all countries, in an attempt for a healthier, fairer, safer, and more sustainable world by 2030.
Understanding that these 17 SDGs include the health sector and SDG No. 3 is specifically associated with health goals, the Program decided, in 2017, to contribute to the achievement of these goals and targets.
Also, in 2015, the Department of Social Medicine was designated by the World Health Organization (WHO), among several proponents, to host the WHO Regional Training Centers in Implementation Research for the Americas. So, in 2017, the Program’s focus changed into the existing interface between the SDGs (especially the number 3), the Family Health Strategy, and the implementation research. In other words, we are focused on contributing to the implementation of the goals advocated by the UN/WHO, with an emphasis on those pertinent to primary health care.
The primary idea of this movement is not exactly to create new health interventions, but to understand why interventions that are known to be effective are not applied, especially in less developed countries, and to develop and test new strategies to implement these measures. In this sense, we hope to contribute to reducing the gap between what is known to be effective and what is practiced in health.
With this purpose, the Graduate Program in Community Health inaugurated a new phase based on its local social origin, and at the same time in agreement with the global challenge of providing universal access to health, with quality and equity. To be consistent with this new attitude, the Program changed its name to Graduate Program in Public Health.