This article examines grassroots constructions of a right to health in São Paulo's urban periphery during Brazil's civil-military dictatorship (1964–85). Centered on the rise of the Movimento de Saúde da Zona Leste (Health Movement of the East Zone), an agglomeration of neighborhood health movements, the article explores how grassroots movements came to articulate while under military rule a notion of a right to health that incorporated the right to shape the city and the right to democratic participation. As frustration with a lack of sanitary infrastructure and poor-quality health care mounted, grassroots movements organized neighborhood health commissions and compelled the state government of São Paulo to recognize elected popular health councils as comanagers of public health-care facilities. In tracing this trajectory, this article demonstrates that health was a key area through which everyday people negotiated the contours of Brazil's emergent democracy during the transition from authoritarian rule.

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