Eugênio Scanavino Netto
This profile was prepared when Eugênio Scanavino Netto was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1989.
The New Idea
Physician Eugenio Scanavino opted for that language of the people to convey his "Health and Happiness" project to some of the poorest of Brazil's poor, the neglected people of the Amazon. Early in his practice in tropical medicine, as rural physician, Netto saw that treating the ill in a clinic only fed a disease-oriented view of medicine and health."Health in the Amazon is not a question of doctors and medicines. When I saw it did no good to infinitely treat vermin, it became clear that a preventive work is necessary where all participate with attitudes of health," Eugenio says.Among the very poor backwoods residents of the Amazon, preventive health care includes showing them in simple terms ways to use the most available resources to enhance health. Some plants and animals in the rainforest environment offer the very elements humans need for health. Some conditions can be easily cured through inexpensive home remedies. In both cases, health and sometimes life itself can depend on knowing what to do and how to use everyday elements in the environment."For me, for a child in the interior to die of diarrhea, a simple, curable and preventable disease, is a humiliating fact of the lack of respect and dignity of a society," Eugenio says. But he rather not waste time lamenting such injustices, but instead dedicate his time to resolving them.Scanavino takes his Health and Happiness circus to poor Amazon residents, spending a few days in each area. During the periodic visits, the multidisciplinary team performs circus and theater acts and puppet shows using popular characters to entertain and educate at the same time. Games help teach nutrition to children. The team gives mini-courses about health issues in which the residents themselves have expressed an interest.The team's work reinforces the idea that people live healthier, happier lives when they live in tune with the natural environment. It emphasizes the forest as a health resource."I look for pragmatism," Scanavino says, "the most effective measure for the most objective problems. For this we need to know how to comprehend the reality of each thing, without preconceived notions, to be able to transform it."