A Primary goal of the Cuban Revolution was to provide medical care free of charge to all Cubans. Today Cuban Healthcare is recognized as a world leader.
Cuba’s Health Care System: a Model for the World
According to the UN’s World Health Organization, Cuba’s health care system is an example for all countries of the world.
The Cuban health system is recognized worldwide for its excellence and its efficiency. Despite extremely limited resources and the dramatic impact caused by the economic sanctions imposed by the United States for more than half a century, Cuba has managed to guarantee access to health care for all segments of the population and obtain results similar to those of the most developed nations.
During her recent visit to Havana in July of 2014, Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), impressed by the country’s achievements in this field, praised the Cuban health care system: “Cuba is the only country that has a health care system closely linked to research and development. This is the way to go, because human health can only improve through innovation,” She also praised “the efforts of the country’s leadership for having made health an essential pillar of development”.
Cuba’s health care system is based on preventive medicine and the results achieved are outstanding. According to Margaret Chan, the world should follow the example of the Island Nation in this arena and replace the curative model, inefficient and more expensive, with a prevention-based system. “We sincerely hope that all of the world’s inhabitants will have access to quality medical services, as they do in Cuba,” she said.
The quality of its health care system has had a huge impact on the well-being of children and pregnant women. The infant mortality rate in Cuba is lower than it is in the United States and is among the lowest in the world. Also with a life expectancy of 78 years, Cuba is one of the best performers on the American continent and in the Third World, achieving results similar to those of most developed nations.
Cuba: the country that keeps on giving.
Since the Revolution, Cuba has dispatched 113,000 doctors
to work abroad in 103 nations.
Cuba sends doctors and medical resources all over the world. In the midst of last summer’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, Cuba sent six tons of medical supplies and drugs to affected Palestinians; and in the aftermath of the 2010 Haitian earthquake, Cuban doctors were the first to arrive on the ground. Moreover, with 930 total healthcare professionals involved, they comprised the largest contingent of aid workers for the disaster. With operating rooms open 18 hours a day and a donation of 400,000 tetanus vaccines for the wounded, Cuban aid saved countless lives.
This past year, support was especially strong as many countries praised Cuba for its exceptional response to the Ebola crisis in West Africa. Cuba extended substantial human resources to the region. As Gail Reed, co-founder of Medical Education Cooperation with Cuba (MEDICC) explained: “This is something built into the psyche of Cuban doctors and nurses—the idea that ‘I am a public servant…It’s coming from a commitment to make health care a universally accepted right.”
That is a record unmatched even for a rich country never
mind a still relatively poor CUBA
Cuban expertise in the field of health also benefits the people of the Third World. Indeed, since 1963, Cuba has sent doctors and other health workers throughout the Third World to treat the poor. Currently, nearly 30,000 Cuban medical staff are working in over 60 countries around the world.
The iconic example of this solidarity with the poorest of the earth is Operation Miracle, a major vision restoration program launched in 2004 by Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez. This humanitarian campaign implemented under the aegis of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA). It operates, without charges, on the Latin American poor who suffer from cataracts and other eye diseases.
In a decade, nearly 3.5 million people have had their vision restored through this example of Cuban internationalism. Initially created for Venezuela, this social program was extended to the entire continent with the objective of operating on a total of six million people. In addition to surgery Mission Miracle, a strategy for improving the program’s reach and performance, provides free eyeglasses and contact lenses for people with vision impairment.
In total, nearly 165 Cuban institutions participate in Operation Miracle, which maintains a network of 49 ophthalmological centers and 82 surgical units in 14 countries in Latin America: Bolivia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Grenada, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Venezuela and Uruguay.
Cuban medical solidarity also extends to Africa. In 2014, LABIOFAM, the Cuban chemical and biopharmaceutical research institute, launched a vaccination campaign against malaria in no fewer than 15 West African countries. According to WHO, the virus, which affects mostly children, costs the lives of some 630,000 people a year, “most of them children under five living in Africa.” The organization emphasizes that “This means that 1,000 young children die every day from malaria.”
Similarly, Cuba trains young physicians worldwide in its Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM). Since its inception in 1998, ELAM has graduated more than 20,000 doctors from over 123 countries. Currently, 11,000 young people from over 120 nations follow a career in medicine at the Cuban institution.
Latin American Medical School (ELAM)
Supporting the world’s largest medical school in the education of
socially committed physicians…
Since its first class of 2005, the Latin American Medical School (ELAM) has graduated over 23,000 physicians. Most are from low-income communities in Africa, Asia and the Americas, but also placements have been given to worthy students from the U.S. unable to afford the cost of education at home.
ELAM is the largest medical school in the World. Nearly 10,000 students are enrolled in the program, thanks to the full scholarships offered by Cuba. These new MDs make a commitment to work in underserved areas upon graduation.
Young people from over 100 ethnic groups, over half of them women, study in an environment that recognizes the right of every patient to care, and that centers learning in the community, where health promotion is as important as disease management.
For a fuller understanding of the ELAM program watch here. A full length documentary film.