We take a look at the high standards of Cuban healthcare, focusing the preventative measures taken to monitor the health of the population, to rapid developments in biotech, pharmaceuticals, and diagnostic technology.
Cuba’s healthcare system has been praised around the world for its efficiency, scientific innovation and high standards, not only as a Third World country, but even when compared to countries like the U.S. The access to health services for the Cuban population is remarkable, and the results rival those of far more developed countries.
Since the 1950s Cuba’s doctor-to-patient ratio has grown significantly. And in the 1960s, the government implemented a program that saw the entire population gain access to vaccinations, which helped wipe out a range of contagious diseases like polio and rubella. A new focus on maternal care from the 1970s onward also saw infant mortality rates plummet significantly.
The infant mortality rate in Cuba is one of the lowest in the world – roughly the same as Australia. Whereas life expectancy is one of the highest – around 78.7 years! It is also a leader in medical biotech and pharmaceutical development, and has become renowned for its diagnostic technology.
Let’s take a look at the Cuban healthcare system, from its emphasis on prevention, to its effective use of traditional medicines, and its innovative approach to health sciences.
World Renowned Excellence
Today, healthcare in Cuba is free and is considered amongst the country’s leadership and population a universal right. Preventative care is fundamental to the Cuban healthcare model, and with limited resources at hand, this really the only option. But prevention isn’t easy!
In 2014, Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), visited Havana and was impressed by what she saw.
“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 said, going on to praise the efforts of the country’s leadership for placing “health as an essential pillar of development.”
Prevention Through Determination
The key to Cuba’s efficient healthcare system is its comprehensive approach. The country offers yearly check-ups for all of its citizens, which helps monitor the health of the entire population thoroughly and without prejudice. Most municipalities in Cuba have a dedicated medical centre, staffed by trained doctors, and supplemented by nurses and specialists who work between clinics.
Seem impossible? Not without a lot of doctors. And Cuba has a lot of doctors. In 2005, the country became the world leader in the ratio of doctors to citizens, with 67 doctors per 10,000 people. In 2015, this rose to roughly 80 doctors per 10,000 people. Or eight for every 1,000.
This balance allows Cuban doctors to assess their patients more thoroughly with the aim of preventing disease or illness before it arises. Which is a very efficient and cost-effective approach to healthcare.
Medical Biotech and Pharmaceutical Development in Cuba
Cuba is currently leading the way when it comes to medical biotech and pharmaceutical development too, particularly with advancements in anti-cancer, and cardiovascular agents, amongst others.
The Center for Molecular Immunology (CIM) near Havana is a brilliant example of the robust infrastructure for medical science and biotechnology in Cuba. It’s a modern complex of labs and research facilities that developed out of Cuba’s National Institute of Oncology and Radiology.
Clinical trials in the disciplines of health, pharmacology, immunology and genetic and biological sciences have led to countless innovations, and with the government investing so much in scientific research, it is institutions like the CIM that are revered for developing the cutting edge medical treatments that Cuba is now known for.
The BioCubaFarma Enterprise Group is another shining example of Cuba leading the way in the health sciences, tirelessly working on a range of scientific projects, developing innovate and world-class medicines, diagnostic systems and medical equipment, among other health products. The institution also undertakes projects in the field of agricultural and livestock biotech as part of its mission to contribute to food production in the country.
As Cuba Inside The World note, Cuba became the first country in the world to eliminate mother-to-child HIV-AIDS transmission in 2015 – an impressive accomplishment, made possible thanks to innovative diagnostic equipment and antiretroviral medicines to treat HIV and AIDS patients supplied by BioCubaFarma. Very impressive indeed!
Looking Back: A Traditional Approach to Healthcare
The Cuban healthcare system holds great stead in the effectiveness of traditional medicine, which is far more accessible and affordable for the general population. Since the 1990s, the government has promoted cost-effective healthcare solutions provided by green medicine, homeopathy and acupuncture.
Traditional Chinese medicines are relatively popular in Cuba, albeit they are not approved by Cuba State Centre for Drugs and Device Control (CECMED). Ingenious use of natural resources, a practice which traces back to traditions of herbal medicine, is prevalent throughout the country. As is the research and development of effective and efficient ways to use natural resources to treat and prevent disease.
There are roughly ten local Natural and Traditional Medicine (NTM) production facilities across the same number of Cuban provinces set to receive certification from the CECMED for meeting pharmaceutical practice standards by the end of 2017, according to Johann Perdomo Delgado, head of the Ministry of Health’s NTM department. The main objective of the certification process is to improve the centres’ infrastructure and technology, and ensure that they receive plant biomass from the Ministry of Agriculture.
Traditional Medicine in Cuba Today
Today, traditional medicine remains an integral part of Cuba’s healthcare model, co-existing alongside modern medicine as part of a holistic approach. Perdomo Delgado notes that natural medications and traditional remedies were given to millions of people in 2017. And that in addition to providing phytodrugs and bee-derived products, the MNT also includes acupuncture and related techniques, homeopathy, flower-therapy, hydrotherapy (sun and seawater treatments), traditional therapeutic exercises, among the main trends. The growth of this area in the last years is a consequence of the lack of most common medications in Cuba.
Each of Cuba’s state-run municipal medical clinics offer traditional medical services, and many pharmacies supply a range of natural medicines and homeopathic remedies. And when you consider how healthy the country is overall, it appears we could benefit from a little green healing.
References avaliable on request.