Brazil is a rapidly developing country. Modern health services operate in a situation of extreme social change, which resembles some of the conditions that gave rise to health visiting in 19th century Britain. A visit there revealed much interest in the health visiting principles of the search for health needs, the stimulation of an awareness of health needs, the influence on policies affecting health and the facilitation of health-enhancing activities. Explaining these principles to an audience on the other side of the world highlighted three underlying themes. The principles of health visiting are about health promotion, not assistance; they provide an integrated framework, not a list of competences or skills; and they are all underpinned by a particular value and view of health. The explana-tion was met with great interest. We need to be both more aware and better able to explain these underlying themes in this country as well.