Brazil has great geopolitical importance because of its size, environmental resources, and potential economic power. The organisation of its health care system reflects the schisms within Brazilian society. High technology private care is available to the rich and inadequate public care to the poor. Limited financial resources have been overconcentrated on health care in the hospital sector and health professionals are generally inappropriately trained to meet the needs of the community. However, recent changes in the organisation of health care are taking power away from federal government to state and local authorities. This should help the process of reform, but many vested interests remain to be overcome. A link programme between Britain and Brazil focusing on primary care has resulted in exchange of ideas and staff between the two countries. If primary care in Brazil can be improved it could help to narrow the health divide between rich and poor.