HAVANA TIMES — Today, let’s talk about morbidity rates in Cuba. Why do people get sick? How have morbidity rates changed in recent years?
The Cuban Public Health System experienced a change for the positive since the Revolution triumphed. Over the span of a few decades, deadly, infectious diseases had been erradicated, reduced or controlled, thanks to the efforts and resources we have now which are dedicated to fighting them. This first-world trend continues even today; there’s no surprise there.
However, other deadly diseases are beginning to spread; the most distressing of all: cancer.
Since 2009, cancer incidence statistics have skyrocketed in our country. Especially cases of skin cancer, which has slowly been climbing the ladder to now take first place… It isn’t the deadliest but it’s still a great health concern.
Public awareness about this disease
In order to write this post, I casually sounded out about a dozen well-informed people; none of them knew about our “little problem” with skin cancer.
In certain countries – such as in the sunny states of the USA, for example – some newspapers publish the Solar UV Index as another service of the weather forecast. There are laws in effect which prohibit school activities outside in the heat of the day, and some summer spots are making it a habit to give out free sunblock. Because it’s a lot cheaper and better for your health to take precautions than face an epidemic disease, anyone can tell you that.
Anyone except the Cuban health authorities. Warnings, if there are any, are scarce; and producing sunblock (let alone giving it out for free) isn’t amongst the pharmaceutical or cosmetic companies’ priorities. Why do they have this indifferent and ridiculous attitude? To be honest, I can’t get my head around it.
Cervical cancer (CCU)
The second type of cancer with the highest annual growth rate (we’re talking about cases) is breast cancer, and following behind in third place, is cervical cancer.
In the first few decades of the Revolution, cervical cancer was controlled thanks to a massive campaign and free pap smears. However, something is happening nowadays to make incidence and mortality rates increase steadily. We’re still a long way off pre-Revolution rates but the pace at which it continues to increase today is alarming.
According to official statistics, the number of women who go for their pap smear remains the same. However, over time, cases of cervical cancer are now normally only detected in its more advanced stages, which makes treating the disease all the more difficult.
Why is that? Again, I don’t know. Either cervical cancer has become more aggressive; or the test is no longer reliable, giving a higher number of false negatives, or more and more women aren’t going to their pap smears when they should.
Dengue? In Cuba?
Before exploring this subject, I want to point out that the morbidity statistics cited here come from the Annual Health Report which is three years out of date; the last report was published in 2012. For some strategic reason – I suspect it has something to do with not scaring off tourism – the Ministry of Health hasn’t revealed more recent figures.
Dengue has been giving hospitals a lot of work filling up the facilities to capacity long before 2012. However, the Ministry of Health’s official report doesn’t mention anything about this epidemic. Not once, in its 208 pages, do the words “dengue” or “chikungunya” appear. This is an embarrassing mark on its credibility in a work which, on the other hand, seems to be quite serious.
- Data is taken from the Annual Health Report, updated in 2015
- The increase in skin cancer cases has nothing to do with climate change or global warming.