Our day started off with a presentation on the Cuban health system given from a representative from the Ministry of Health. Our speaker was also a former surgeon so he was very knowledgeable on Cuba’s public/primary health system. Cuba sustains the overall health of its citizens to a level comparable to a first world nation when Cuba is actually a developing nation functioning under harsh economic sanctions. This was very surprising to us because his statistics demonstrated that while the life expectancy and infant mortality surpass the U.S., we spend $5,711 per capita compared to their $251 per capita. He then elaborated on Cuba’s emphasis on public health, feasible access to primary care, mission based goals, and the integration of health education in their health system. This was a great start to the rest of the sites we visited throughout the week because it gave us an opportunity to think about our own health system in the U.S. and how it relates to Cuba’s national health system.
We then proceeded to explore the city of Havana. We stepped out into the warm sun and we were surrounded by colorful, antique cars and buildings decorated with Cuban flags and pictures of Fidel Castro. Some classmates took rides in the antique cars around the city and others spent some time in the square shopping and mingling with the locals.
The last stop of the day was the polyclinic visit, during which we learned more about the Cuban health culture. The doctor and the nurse at each community based polyclinic work as a team responsible for a set number of families within a geographic location. In completing this task, the doctor and nurse must become acquainted with all the families in their care. Additionally, polyclinic staff are required to live in the community they serve to better understand the environmental factors affecting families. For instance, if a nurse is educating a patient with diabetes on diet appropriate foods, the nurse is able to provide information on specific food items that are locally available. The community focus of Cuban’s health care assists in fostering the health culture in which prevention of illness is seen as a social responsibility. The end of the second day gave us so much to ponder, such as how the U.S. can replicate the Cuban’s focus on prevention focused medical and nursing care.
Leslie Mendoza and Vanessa Torres