No Harms – Preventative Care in Cuba

The Cuban health care industry guarantees basic health coverage – it provides exceptional preventative medicine for all citizens.

Garrett, Senior Fellow for Global Health at the Council on Foreign Relations, 2010

(Laurie, “Castrocare in Crisis,” Foreign Affairs, 89:4, July/August, EBSCOhost)

The two keys to Cuba’s medical and public health achievements are training provided by the state and a community-based approach that requires physicians to live in the neighborhoods they serve and be on call 24 hours a day. In the wake of the 1959 Cuban Revolution, more than one-third of Cuba’s doctors fled, mostly to the United States, leaving the country with just 6,300 physicians and a doctor-patient ratio of 9.2 per 10,000, according to the Cuban Ministry of Public Health. In response, Fidel Castro declared public health and doctor training to be paramount tasks for the new socialist state.¶ By the early 1980s, Cuba led the socialist world — including its patron, the Soviet Union — in all health indicators. Between 1959 and 1989, Cuba’s doctor-patient ratio more than tripled, soaring to 33 per 10,000, and health-care expenditures rose by 162 percent. Cuba today has the highest doctor-patient ratio in the entire world, with 59 physicians per 10,000 people — more than twice the ratio of the United States. Cuba is the world’s only poor country that can rightly say that basic health is no longer an existential problem for its people. Its achievement in this respect is unparalleled.¶ Cuba now boasts more than 73,000 practicing doctors (half of whom work in primary care), 107,761 nurses, and a total health-care work force of 566,365, according to government figures. About 12 percent of Cuba’s adult population is employed by the state in the health-care sector. Because of economic exigencies that have limited Cuba’s access to advanced technology for diagnosing and curing ailments, the Cuban health system has focused — successfully — on prevention. Between 1959 and 2000, Cuba reduced its infant mortality by 90 percent, and the number of mothers who died from pregnancy-related complications dropped from 125 per 100,000 live births to 55 per 100,000.

Skip to toolbar