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Child health in Latin America: historiographic perspectives and challenges

Patterns of child health and well-being in Latin America’s past -- have been assumed to be delayed and derivative of European and North American experiences. Through an examination of recent historiography, this essay traces a more complex reality: interest in infant and child health in Latin America arose from a range of domestic and regional prerogatives. This attention was rooted in pre-Columbian cultures, then relegated to the private sphere during the colonial period, except for young public wards. Starting in the 19th century, professionals, reformers, and policy-makers throughout the region regarded child health as a matter central to building modern societies. Burgeoning initiatives were also linked to international priorities and developments, not through one-way diffusion but via ongoing interaction of ideas and experts. Despite pioneering approaches to children’s rights and health in Latin America, commitment to child well-being has remained uneven, constrained in many settings by problematic political and economic conditions and large social inequalities in most countries of the region.

child health; infant mortality; child welfare; Latin America

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