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Health (Cuba)

Why does health care in Cuba cost 96% less than in the US?

Claudia Lopez, an intern, with outpatients at 5 de Septiembre Polyclinic, Havana. Photo by Gail Reed/World Health Organisation.

By Don Fitz

January 5, 2011-- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- When Americans spend $100 on health care, is it possible that only $4 goes to keeping them well and $96 goes somewhere else? Single payer health care [government-funded universal health insurance] advocates compare US health care to that in Western Europe or Canada and come up with figures of 20–30% waste in the US.

But there is one country with very low level of economic activity yet with a level of health care equal to the West: Cuba.

Life expectancy of about 78 years of age in Cuba is equivalent to the US. Yet, in 2005, Cuba was spending US$193 per person on health care, only 4% of the $4540 being spent in the US. Where could the other 96% of US health care dollars be going?

1. A fragmented system

Cuban medics in Haiti put the world to shame (UK Independent)

[See also "Cuba: Reversing the medical `brain drain’ – the many faces of ELAM".]

By Nina Lakhani

Castro's doctors and nurses are the backbone of the fight against cholera

December 26, 2010 -- The Independent -- They are the real heroes of the Haitian earthquake disaster, the human catastrophe on America's doorstep which Barack Obama pledged a monumental US humanitarian mission to alleviate. Except these heroes are from [the United States'] arch-enemy Cuba, whose doctors and nurses have put US efforts to shame.

A medical brigade of 1200 Cubans is operating all over earthquake-torn and cholera-infected Haiti, as part of Fidel Castro's international medical mission which has won the socialist state many friends, but little international recognition.

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STOP PRESS: New Henry Reeve Brigade arrives in Haiti

By Juan Diego Nusa Peñalver

Cuba: Reversing the medical `brain drain’ – the many faces of ELAM

ELAM students.

By Don Fitz, Havana

November 7, 2010 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Cuba is doing more than any other country in the world to reverse the “brain drain” of doctors abandoning impoverished areas. A physician who leaves Sierra Leone for South Africa can earn 20 times as much. Higher pay in English-speaking countries lures medical graduates from India (10.6% of doctors), Pakistan (11.7%), Sri Lanka (27.5%), and Jamaica (41.7%). Only 50 of 600 doctors trained in Zambia remained there after independence. There are more Ethiopian doctors in Chicago than in Ethiopia.[1]

The Cuban alternative is the 11year old Escuela Latinoamericana de Medicina (ELAM, Latin American School of Medicine). With their educational costs covered by the Cuban government, students focus on returning as doctors to under-served communities in their countries.

The more than 20,000 medical students in Cuba receive much, much more than a free education — they are participating in a project to build a new model of medicine for the world’s poor. Students are well aware that they represent 1 of 100 countries, each of which has a unique relationship to the yoke of imperialism.

Cuban doctors in Haiti: `The worst tragedy is not being able to do more'

January 18, 2010 -- Since 1998, Cuba's health cooperation with Haiti has made it possible for 6000 doctors, paramedics and health technicians to work there. Besides, 450 young Haitians have graduated as doctors from Cuban colleges, free of charge, in the past 12 years. More than 400 Cuban specialists, 344 of them doctors and paramedics, have been in Haiti, jointly sponsored by the United Nations and the Cuban government. But in the wake of last Tuesday's disaster, the largest earthquake ever to hit the Caribbean Basin, Cuba dispatched another team of 60 doctors, health technicians and medications to join the doctors on the ground in Haiti. Cuba has also sent ten tons of medications.

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By Leticia Martínez Hernández, photos by Juvenal Balán

HIV/AIDS treatment in Cuba: a rights-based analysis; Lessons and challenges

One of Cuba's many neighbourhood health clinics, centrepieces of Cuba's health system.

By Tim Anderson

Cuba has achieved the lowest rate of HIV infection and the highest level of AIDS treatment in the Caribbean region. Yet the Cuban HIV program — part of its famous health system — has been subjected to many criticisms, usually linked to the themes of “freedom” and “rights.” These criticisms must be seen in the broader context of demands for economic “freedoms” in Cuba and in the context of US demands for the dismantling of Cuban socialism and for widespread privatisation, including privatisation of the public health system. Outside understandings of the Cuban health system are further undermined by the US economic blockade of Cuba, roundly condemned each year by the United Nations General Assembly, which prevents normal scientific and cultural exchange between the US and Cuba.

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