Free Public Health: An Unquestionable Achievement of CubaAugust 4, 2012 | Print |
Elio Delgado Legon
HAVANA TIMES — One can always criticize the shortcomings and imperfections that exist in any human endeavor, just as one can point to the incorrect or irresponsible attitudes of individuals who have caused extensive damage to the image of our health care system.
Notwithstanding, one cannot fail to recognize that the public health care system in Cuba is one of the most important achievements of the revolution, along with education.
Precisely for this reason, the transnationals of information — always ready to denigrate and to disseminate anything that might give a negative image — refuse to publish anything about the true results of public health care in Cuba.
The same applies to some bloggers who respond to the interests of the enemies of the revolution. The same can be said for those who devote themselves to writing comments that exaggerate situations so as to denigrate an activity that remains the pride of Cuban revolutionaries – while still having plenty of room for improvement.
On several occasions, Margaret Chang, the general director of the World Health Organization (WHO), has referred positively to the Cuban health care system. On her first visit to Cuba in October 2009, she said: “I’m here to learn from the excellent efforts you have made in creating the health care system here. Much of your work — such as primary health care systems, community-based care, and equal health care access for everyone — are all topics of great interest to us.”
She added that she was “fully aware of the economic, commercial and financial impact that the embargo (blockade) applied by Washington has had on the island.” Despite that, she also noted that Cuba has had “outstanding results” in health care and has sent medical missions to many countries in Latin America and Africa.
The main health indicators in Cuba speak for themselves concerning the effectiveness of the system.
Infant mortality, which is one of the main indicators for measuring the health of a country, is among the lowest in the world. For the last four years the rate remained below five per thousand live births, lower than many developed countries – including the United States.
To ensure that level, and to continue reducing that rate as well as maternal mortalities, there exists a maternal-infant program whereby all pregnant women receive medical monitoring throughout their pregnancy, during childbirth and in the first year of baby’s life.
If a mother fails to go for a check-up at the appropriate time, the doctor will send staff to look for her or the physician will visit her at her home.
This is possible because the whole country is covered by a primary health care system, which regulates all citizens in their area of service.
Life expectancy at birth is almost 80 years, while the principal causes of death in the country are strokes, cancer, heart attacks and accidents.
Deaths due to communicable diseases have been reduced to the minimum because all children are vaccinated against thirteen diseases, of which five have been eradicated completely.
When we compare these results with the reality of today’s world, where three million children die every year from diseases that can be prevented by vaccines, we can only feel pride for our health care system.
Some people are dissatisfied? That’s true. The leaders of the health care system in Cuba are also dissatisfied and are working actively to improve services every day.
As for preventive medicine, the results of Cuba surpass those of the wealthiest nations in the world, according to international statistical comparisons – which include the 15 most developed countries.
There are many obstacles faced by the Cuban government in providing better medical care.
Many latest-generation medicines — even those for saving the lives of children who suffer from cancer — cannot normally be bought because this is prevented by the US.
Instead, Cuba has to search the world and pay top dollar for them, which equate to processing delays that can result in those vital medicines arriving too late.
This isn’t even mentioned in the foreign press.
The Cuban health system is prepared to perform and carries out the most complex operations and transplants. Through this, many lives are saved, without the patients or their families having to pay a single cent, neither for the services nor the medicines.
However, due to the difficulties mentioned above in purchasing some anti-rejection medications, sometimes not all needed operations can be performed.
If all of these real-life situations were analyzed by the press, instead of the media organizing a media campaign against Cuba, their inclusion of this information could help solve many of these problems.
And if these were overcome, I have no doubt that the Cuban health care system would be the very best in the world.