Cuba is an Example for the World Regarding Healthcare

By Elio Delgado Legon

Cuban doctors and other health workers leave for Nepal after an earthquake there. Foto:

HAVANA TIMES — The 3rd International Health Convention “Cuba Salud 2018” was held in Havana between April 23-27th 2018, and it gave Cuba the chance to showcase its achievements in this sector, including achievements made in collaboration with over 80 countries, since 1960.

UN officials who make an effort to improve people’s health around the globe (albeit unsuccessfully sometimes), have told the press what they think about Cuba’s health system and I will cite them so that they aren’t just my own opinions, which are understandly influenced by a healthy sense of pride of belonging to a country which is an example for how public health should be in the world.

Cristian Morales, Cuba’s representative at the Pan American and World Health Organizations (PAHO/WHO), stated that Cuba has reached indexes that compare to those in developed nations, in spite of a US blockade for over 55 years. He gave the example of Cuba being the first country in the world to be validated, in 2015, for having eliminated mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis, and it has recently been validated again for two more years.

He reminded the press that Cuba is the country with the lowest child mortality rate in the Americas, as it has been under 5 for 10 years now and reached 4.0 in 2017. He highlighted the fact that they vaccinate citizens against 13 diseases and that the majority of these vaccines are produced in national labs. He also emphasized the fact that a Cuban’s life expectancy is almost 80 years of age, one of the highest in the Americas.

Doctor Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Director-General, expressed his gratitude to Cuba for the example and role it has played in protecting others against diseases all over the world.

He stressed that Cuba is the perfect place to learn how to achieve universal access, even with few resources.

There are grounds for other countries attending the 3rd International Health Convention “Cuba Salud 2018” in the country’s achievements and efforts to improve the quality of healthcare services to its populaiton, the high ranking official said.

He pointed out that this wasn’t the first time that he had traveled to the largest of the Antilles and that every time he comes he discovers something new, not just in patient care but in scientific research too, developing new medicines and vaccines.

For example, the island has over 160 patents for its medicines, it produces eight of the thirteen vaccines it gives Cuban children and it is always open to cooperate internationally, he said. 

Adhanom also praised the fact that Cuba has been able to train its human resources (doctors, nurses and techicians), ready to serve in other countries and he pointed out the presence of over 48,000 Cuban healthcare professionals currently cooperating elsewhere.

Talking to national and international press, WHO’s Director-General mentioned the effort Cuba makes to keep its health system going, highlighting its intention to disclose how it has reached these high health indexes, along with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).
He revealed that the Week of Vaccination in the Americas was launched for the first time during the 3rd International Health Convention “Cuba Salud 2018”, in this country, as it has managed to provide wide-spanning immunization to its children.

He underlined the fact that island’s politics in this field are in keeping with the WHO and PAHO’s aspirations when it comes to providing universal and free healthcare, which has Primary health centers as a platform or main stage, saying that Cuba is an example. 

The highest representatives of the WHO and PAHO said that they were happy to be in Cuba, for everything that it has managed to do when it comes to vaccinating its population, preventing disease and also in developing vaccines for other countries across the world.

As for me, I would just like to add what Cuba has done for healthcare in the rest of the world, training medical personnel for countries, especially young people who would never have been able to pay for a medicine degree in their own countries, where over 28,500 doctors from 103 countries, including the United States, have graduated.

Elio Delgado Legon

Elio Delgado-Legon: I am a Cuban who has lived for 80 years, therefore I know full well how life was before the revolution, having experienced it directly and indirectly. As a result, it hurts me to read so many aspersions cast upon a government that fights tooth and nail to provide us a better life. If it hasn’t fully been able to do so, this is because of the many obstacles that have been put in its way.

23 thoughts on “Cuba is an Example for the World Regarding Healthcare

  • thank you very much for the lesson

  • First of all, here in the US, we have 3 basic health care systems. The best one, and it is among the best in the world, is the employer-sponsored system. The 2nd system is one designed for the self-employed. It is expensive and inconsistent. The third system is Medicare. It is the government-provided alternative. It is comparable to other government health care systems in other countries. Most of the criticism of health care in the US is aimed at the 2nd system. This portion of the overall health care system in the U.S. amount to approximately 15% of insured population. Taken as a whole the U.S. system, with all its flaws and defects, far exceeds what my Cuban family and friends have in Cuba. I don’t have to tip the doctor here. There are always fresh linens and brightly lit hallways in the hospitals. I have never suffered a shortage of medicine or medical supplies. Finally, there is no lack of doctors or nurses and neither are forced to look for outside income beyond their medical profession.

  • my father, my mother, my wife, two brothers, two cousins and many friends are doctors here in Cuba, I would can to tell a lot about that so called “example” of public health, but, let’s assume that Cuban public health system is a success, let’s assume that is better than American health system with all the flaws it do has, ok.

    Are any of those that criticize the American health system and defending the Cuban willing to improve that one making USA a single party country, with no freedom of expression, freedom of association, freedom of movement inside your own country, freedom of protest, would you like to live 90 years in a country where a pair of shoes for a 4 years old girl cost your entire salary as a professional, half if you are a doctor? Cuban government to maintain the national health system needs to keep the people poor, out of internet, controlled, subjugated.

    That is the real cost of Cuban health care system, does any of you wants this for your country?

    Maybe I would agree do not have any of those human rights or freedom if this governmental absolutism is the only way to have a health care where children be vaccinated, they don´t die in labour, or have an specialist where to go if get ill, but this Castrism is not the only or the best way to have that, there is possible to have all your human rights, to be treated as a person and not as an object and at the same time to have a better health care that the one we have in Cuba.

    I don´t like the American health system, but if American can protest, vote, demand, talk, organize them self, why have they not improve their system? We Cubans cannot do any of that to change nothing in our country.

  • As one who knows much about agiculture and in particular livestock management (I have been quoted in leading agricultural journals and addressed meetings at many universities), I can say that if addressing getting high levels of production from cattle (beef or dairy), pigs, sheep, poultry and other species, it is necessary to keep them in good health. Good living conditions and availability of plenty of good food are other important elements. That is where the Castro communist regime has failed and in consequence although due to a fairly good medical system their human herd lives fairly long lives, the lack of access to good living conditions and good food reduces potential productivity. Elio ought to keep a few chickens and find out how to make them productive!

  • when I travel to Cuba every year on mission trips. We set up small clinics at some of the house churches. Yes they have some of the best doctors in the world. The greatest problem is just the basic over the counter drugs and not available. Drugs like on the shelves in drugstores. Aspirin the 81mg low dosage that is used as a blood thinner is unknown in within most of the medical profession. Muscle rub also. I understand Cuba has a zero population growth. The population is getting older and very few children are being born. The younger generation can not afford children. If some would tell me if I had a choice to live and receive medical care between the USA and Cuba, I would pick USA with our socialist insurance problems. Socialism or communism or whatever you call their government has not impress me very much in Cuba..

  • The problems you describe are peculiar to the US which does not have a national health programme unlike the European countries, your neighbour Canada and many of the British Commonwealth countries. I guess in part that is because Americans cannot accept that such a social programme is not only sensible for all, but better economically. Canada (next door) with a national health service spends 10.3% of its GDP on health. The US spends an incredible 17,1% of its GDP.

  • You are correct Nick about the life expectancy in Cuba. But, it is also correct that refugees both political and economic have a shorter life expectancy. That affects the statistics of countries like Canada and the US. How many refugees are there in Cuba? The last census found only 5,500 people in a population of over 11 million who were not born in Cuba.
    Secondly Nick, I know personally quite a lot of older Cubans. One close neighbouring couple were married for 70 years before the wife died at 93 earlier this year. But that pension of 200 pesos a month meant that in the years I knew her, she never left home. Her family collected the permuta. Her husband now well into his nineties, similarly does not and has not for many years strayed far from home, taking only a short daily walk, now with the aid of a walker.
    What I am explaining Nick is that many older Cubans are only exposed to one form of stress, that of poverty.
    Incidentally, I attended the wake for the lady.

  • Just remember Lynn that $2 for a Cuban represents 10% of their monthly income. Does $48 represent 10%of your monthly income? You say that a lot of USA citizens are studying medicine in Cuba. How many is a lot? Your reactions Lynn are common amongst those with brief experience of Cuba who have gleaned a surface experience. Dig deeper!

  • Sorry, I worked in the meds industry, and I will be surprise of how many happy healthcare providers you can honestly count out of 100 in the USA. And how many happy patients, if u can’t afford ins u either die, or u can sale all ur assets, and say good bye to any chance of a honorable retirement.
    I worked with a lot of this patients, some have lost their homes, life savings, businesses, and ended up renting a room pr living with their kids at their50’s, 60’s,.
    Some veterans, were knly able to get a surtain amount of rx per month paid by medicare, so we had to call other medical offices for samples, apply with pharm companies to get meds cheap or free, because pur patients couldn’t afford, doctors visits copay, rent, food, other living expenses and another $200, $300 on meds out of pocket.
    It is very baffling how very minimal is the knoledge of some people abt how their fellow Americans live. I mean from the poorest to the richest, and the mayority is middle low class to middle high.
    I’am a self empl right now, and I only qlf for catastrophic ins, which is $620 a month with a 2k deductible for each, my daughter and me, and ins is $588 a month with a $1k deductible private, 5k deduct emergency.
    Since I’ve seen it in action, and I know is not horrific like, what people say it is ( and they haven’t even seen it). I think I rather het a plane ticket to Cuba then pating catastrophic ins.

  • Moises, maybe you should go and take a pick, I have been there for a few wks, actually thinking to enter into their med school program, where a lot of USA citizens are studying, I went to the doctors there and I had to pay $2.00 for my Er visit?. And then went to the pharmacy got my medications, which I pay every month $48, I ended up paying in a international pharmacy which is overpriced, $20 for a three month supplies.
    U don’t even have to wait to be seen, my daughter needed stitches last summer, we arrived to ER close to 9pm and left 5am, and had to pay $300 upfront and got a $2,200 bill on the mail for 6 stitches.

  • Elio is correct in being pleased with the infant mortality rate in Cuba which is fast approaching that of the UK. There is much to admire in the Medical personnel in Cuba who work frequently in difficult conditions with limited access to drugs that are commonplace in the free world.
    I cannot agree with you Bob that Cuban doctors are willing to work for very low (pitiful) wages. They have no choice other than agreeing to become part of a Cuban Government medical “brigade” and working in other countries. After all, Cuba’s main export is providing medical and educational services to other countries under contract and paying the doctors, nurses and teachers a fraction of the contracted charge. Also, over 1,000 a year bail out to the US.
    Nick appears to be fixated upon the US and its faults. But it does spend over 17% of its GDP on medicine (compared with 10.3% in Nick’s country) and is responsible for many medical advances – from which the world benefits.
    But before Elio gets too smug about Cuba’s successes and the WHO, let him reflect upon the FAO which has been endeavoring to collaborate with Cuba for forty years and whose endeavors have failed as agricultural production has sunk ever lower.

  • The US has the most expensive per gdp and treats less people than all other “advanced” countries. Much because insurance co’s are bloated with skimmed profits as are the pharmaceutical co’s. The right to unlimited private profit is the cause. And the disease.

  • If I am not wrong, I think all this is your own views. But, have you attended the convention? If yes, your view might be based on objective, if not, it is simply wasting of your time…

  • So Cuban life expectancy figures are a scam?
    They pretend that people are still alive when they’re dead do they ??
    On the topic of scams, we need to refer the US healthcare system again……
    You are quite right Mr P, to state that it is one of the most expensive in the world. That’s coz it’s one of the biggest scams in the world.
    I met a fella from the USA who amazed me when he said he pays for healthcare via his income tax, pays for it via health insurance and pays again each time he visits his doctor.
    This thrice payment, rip off system is simply a money making excercise by sinister corporations.
    The reason why the USA lags so far behind other developed countries in terms of healthcare is because the populace stands for it.
    The populace stands for it because of highly advanced propaganda they are fed from childhood.
    The populace is indoctrinated to believe that the more advanced healthcare systems of the world are some form of ‘socialist plot’.
    The outcomes in the USA are often horrific and scandalous with the many from poorer part of the US population dying prematurely from health issues that they cannot afford to have treatment for. Health issues that simply would not result in such early deaths in the more progressive parts of the world.

    Back onto Cuba:
    The Cuban healthcare system is flawed and underfunded.
    Underfunding is particularly relevant in terms of access to medicines.
    It suffers from the paradox described by Bob Michaels.
    Regarding outcomes:
    Cuba and the USA are broadly similar in terms of life expectancy.
    And generally speaking, Cubans don’t die from the kind of treatable health issues that poor folks do in the USA.

  • Elio reports that officials from WHO and PAHO have travelled to Cuba to see the medical system in action. They have not simply relied on reports from the Cuban government.
    As for the figure that that Adhanom cite of 48,000 Cuban medical personnel serving outside their country, is he mistaken?

  • WHO and the PAHO are simply publishing self-reported data. I don’t put much confidence in anything ginned up by the Castro Ministry of Information.

  • First of all, yes, Donald Trump lies. A lot. But so what. His pathology doesn’t justify Castro tyranny. I never said healthcare in the US is better in my earlier comment. But since you brought it up, it is. Despite its many flaws, healthcare in the US is better. Better hospitals, better equipment, better and more plentiful medicine, better-trained, better-paid, happier doctors and medical staff. The entire system is better. It should be. It’s one of the most expensive in the world. About those stats that the WHO publishes on the state of healthcare in the world. It is based on self-reported data sent in by each country. Trusting anything sent out of Cuba’s Ministry of Information is a fool’s lark.

  • BM writes “…they are willing to work for very low wages.” Really? Do the have a choice? Are Cuban doctors turning down better-paying jobs elsewhere to work long hours for the extremely low pay in Cuba? Oh wait, it’s just the opposite. Cuban doctors are leaving the profession to be waiters in tourists hotels in Havana or drive taxis in Miami.

  • Bob, that’s a pretty fair and accurate description of the paradox.

  • Moses does not deny that officials from the WHO and the PAHO have made favourable comments about Cuban health care. Nor does he acknowledge it.

    Have the officials of WHO and PAHO been deceived? I don’t think so.

  • Cuba has some good things about their medical system. They seem to all be keyed on having a large number of doctors. Cuba has some bad things about their medical system. They all seem to be keyed on not have any money to pay for equipment or buy pharmaceuticals or the materials to manufacture them.

    Cuba has a large number of doctors because they are willing to work for very low wages. The reason they are willing to work so cheaply is because the economy is a disaster and there are few other options.

    So the logical question becomes if the economy ever improves, can Cuba then afford the large number of doctors that make their medical system work? This could prove to be a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situation where economic improvement will cause a simultaneous decline in health care.

  • Yet more criticism from Mr P.
    But if the glorious US healthcare provision is so much better Mr P, then why isn’t life expectancy higher in your country than it is in Cuba ?
    The stats don’t lie.
    Your current President lies. On a pretty regular basis.
    But the life expectancy stats don’t tell lies do they ?

  • Elio, obviously feeling a little puffy-chested, seems to overlook the crumbling infrastructure of Cuba’s medical facilities, the antiquated and often non-functioning equipment, and frequent shortages of basic medical supplies. He also forgot to mention low morale among medical staff and the frequent lapses in consistent patient care. By the way, the US embargo excludes medicines.

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