Health in Cuba
Universal public healthcare has been a hallmark of Cuba since the early days of the Cuban Revolution, with the nation making significant strides in improving many health indicators including:
- Very low rates of infant and childhood mortality
- High life expectancy at birth
Despite the positve improvements over the decades since the Revolution (there was a brief downturn for a few years immediately after the revolution ), not all is well in the Cuban healthcare system. The US embargo/blockade against commerce with Cuba (including the implementation of extraterritorial sanctions against non-US based companies who might do business with Cuba) have resulted in widespread shortages of basic pharmaceuticals and medical supplies.
Cuba currently faces several challenges as it relates to healthcare, including:
- The relatively low rate of pay for medical doctors (as compared to other professions in Cuba)
- High maternal mortality rates
- Shortages for many drugs and medical supplies, which can result in long waits in pharmacies and in some cases a black market in medical services for those who have the means to pay for it.
Medical Education in Cuba
Medical education in Cuba is free, including not only the cost of tuition, but also books, room and board and a small monthy stipend.
Public Health Approach
Many of Cuba's positive health indicators have been attributed to the country's public health focus, which includes extensive pre-natal care and house calls for many patients. Cuba has also developed programs to aggressively treat (and provide followup care) for patients with diabetes.
According to many critics, the state-nature of the Cuban health system means that there is little in the way of protection for doctor-patient confidentiality and very limited choice in accessing healthcare.
Also unfortunately, Cuba does not provide any allowance for the use of cannabis (marijuana) for medical purposes. Given the beneficial climate and agricultural resources of this nation, it is unfortunate that Cuba's government has chosen to not allow this form of medicinal treatment for a variety of physical and mental medical disorders.
As discussed on the statistical comparison page
The following comments are the opinions of the author based on his research and conversations with people in both Cuba and the United States.
Cuba is doing many things right when it comes to medical care including (1) providing universal public acces to all of its people, (2) providing free medical training for future doctors, (3) embracing a public health approach.
Cuba has also some key areas of needed improvement including: (1) Increased access to medicines (including OTC medicines that can greatly improve a a basic quality of life such as pain relievers and medicines to treat indigestion, diahrheah, fungal infections and allergies), improved pay for doctors so that they will not be seeking to relocate, and (3) improved rights for patients to manage their own care and to have increased levels of confidentiality.