Why we should look to Cuba to improve our Healthcare System…

Cuba’s healthcare system has been in revolution ever since the 1950s when the infant mortality rate was more than 80 per 1000 births, whereas now it has been reduced to only 5. This is lower than the USA itself and Cuba’s life expectancy is nearly identical to the USA with the average being 78 years; one of the highest in the world. Yet Cuba only spends $431 per head per year in contrast to the USA which spends $8,553. How do they do it? The answer is simple; prevention instead of a cure.

Various graphs comparing the success of Cuba's healthcare system compared to the USA and Latin America
Various graphs comparing the success of Cuba’s healthcare system compared to the USA and Latin America

With its small population of 11 million, Cuba has a multitude of 90,000 doctors to support it. With more than 8 for every 1000 people, this is significantly more than the UK which has 2.7 per 1000. This volume of doctors is the key to the prevention model which ensures that every patient is visited at home annually, and those with chronic conditions have more frequent visits. Data from home visits is combined to put patients into categories according to their “risk”; measured on a scale of 1 to 4.This allows the doctor to assess whether an annual visit is sufficient, or if more regular visits are required. So there is a clear aim to stop the public getting ill in the first place which is completely logical. All house calls result in addressing problems with follow-up appointments; this applies even for the failure of preventing an unwanted pregnancy.

Vaccination rates are the highest in the world, their literacy rate is 99% and health education is compulsory in all schools. However, there are disadvantages to this system; the public have no choice and no alternative with private health care. Physicians do receive benefits such as housing and food subsides, but their pay is low- $20 per month. Although they get free education and their role is respected, personal wealth is unattainable. Cuba still remains an extremely poor country in other aspects with very basic infrastructure and sanitation. Nevertheless, the advantages of their healthcare system should be an example to countries around the world.

Cuban healthcare
Cuban healthcare

Due to the success of their healthcare and the extension of the Cuban life, the country now has an ageing population equivalent to the UK. Hence, new problems such as obesity, heart disease and cancer are rising. Ironically the “Cubans live like the poor, and die like the rich,” in that their lifestyle is within a poor nation yet they die from the same diseases as many from a rich nation such as the UK. Indeed, the Cuban government is tackling this with new investments for education on the importance of diet and exercise and the effects of smoking and alcohol.

Should we look to Cuba to solve the NHS problem?
Should we look to Cuba to solve the NHS problem?

In conclusion, Cuba would be one of the most successful countries if it was not a less economically developed country. This presents how prosperous the UK, US or any other more economically developed country could become if the same measures were applied. Everyone could have an increased quality of life in health and wealth. To start we need to train more doctors and ensure that everyone is vaccinated to prevent conditions and people getting ill in the first place. With the NHS system being close to failure, maybe we need to consider Cuba before it’s too late?

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