Collaboration between the Emilia-Romagna Region, Italy, and the state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on strengthening primary care and community hospitals

Luigi Vasini

With the launch of a new project entitled, “Emilia-Romagna Region–Brazilian Unified health System (RER–SUS) intermediate care: exchange of experience and organizational knowledge between Italy and Brazil”, the Emilia-Romagna Region in Italy and the state of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil are demonstrating how powerful a tool international collaboration can be in promoting effective and innovative practice. The project is the result of a well-established relationship between these 2 partners who have been collaborating since 2014 on strengthening comprehensive universal health care in their respective territories through the platform provided by the Italian–Brazilian Laboratory of Training, Research and Practices in Collective Health.

The RER–SUS project

This 12-month project was formally launched during the 8th international workshop of the Italian-Brazilian Laboratory: “Networks and aspirations. What utopias do we need to support our public and universal health care systems?”, which took place in Bologna (Emilia-Romagna Region), Italy, on 25 February–2 March 2019.

The project is the result of strategic intersectoral collaboration between the Direction of Health and Welfare and the International Cooperation Sector in the Emilia-Romagna Region of Italy and is actively supported by the Primary Care Department of the Ministry of Health of Brazil and the Pan American Health Organization/WHO Regional Office for the Americas.

The focus of the project is on developing and improving the care provided in community hospitals and through intermediate care (that is, the range of integrated services designed to facilitate transition from hospital to home and from medical dependence to functional independence). Providing appropriate care to people with chronic and multiple health issues is challenging; it requires strong coordination across sectors and settings, as well as multiprofessional, integrated and people-centred work practices.

Initiatives to achieve the goal of the project with an impact on both the Italian and Brazilian contexts will include sharing technical expertise, conducting joint assessments, exchanging good practice and building capacity.

During the 8th international workshop of the Italian–Brazilian Laboratory in Bologna, a Brazilian delegation, comprising policy-makers, administrators, health professionals and academics, visited 3 community hospitals and primary-care facilities in the Emilia-Romagna Region. This led to an in-depth analysis of the strategies and models developed there.

Future milestones will include joint training, involving 60 health administrators and professionals of the Emilia-Romagna Region and the state of Rio de Janeiro, as well as activities to encourage citizens to express their needs and participate in the development of the project.

It is expected that, by the end of the project, an intermediate care unit will have been piloted in Niteroi, a city in the state of Rio de Janeiro, and that this subnational experience will then be scaled up to include other Brazilian states.

Italian-Brazilian Laboratory of Training, Research and Practices in Collective Health

In 2014, following the logic of horizontal and reciprocal learning, and with the aim of strengthening comprehensive, universal health care, the Emilia-Romagna Region embarked on an interinstitutional and intersectoral cooperation with Brazil through a strategic platform called the “Italian-Brazilian Laboratory of Training, Research and Practices in Collective Health”.

This cooperation involves a wide range of players and institutions, including the Direction of Health and Welfare, the International Cooperation Sector, the Health and Social Agency, the University of Bologna and the University of Parma of the Emilia–Romagna Region in Italy, and the Primary Care Department of the Ministry of Health and numerous universities and health institutions located in eight states in Brazil.

The 8th international workshop of the Italian–Brazilian Laboratory involved 60 panellists and gathered more than 600 participants, including a Brazilian delegation of 50 policy-makers, academics and professionals from the health and social sectors. Themes addressed included:

  • the promotion of comprehensive, universal health care;
  • the strengthening of primary-care strategies, intermediate care and community hospitals;
  • soft skills, tools and methodologies for use in training human resources for health in people-centred and integrated work;
  • the aging population and its needs;
  • the promotion of refugees’ and migrants’ rights to health.