Salud! : What Puts Cuba on the Map in the Quest for Global Health
Connie Field (2009)
Salud! Is about the global struggle to overcome health inequality and the vital role Cuba plays in this effort. Filmmaker Connie Field is totally open about her perspective that that health car is a basic right and not a commodity, as it’s viewed in the US.
In pre-revolutionary Cuba, only a small wealthy elite had access to health care. The poor, who comprised 90-90% of the population, died in droves of treatable conditions, such as malaria, respiratory infection, parasites and infantile diarrheal infections.
The Castro regime responded to this health crisis by training tens of thousands of doctors. At present, Cuba has 60,000 doctors for a population of 11 million, making their health system one of the best resourced in the world.
Ending Diseases of Poverty Worldwide
Cuba has been extremely generous in sharing this resource with other poor countries, especially in Africa and Latin America. Since 1963, over 100,000 Cuban health professionals have worked overseas. As well as performing direct patient care, they also train foreign health care professionals.
The film profiles their work in South Africa, Gambia, Honduras and Venezuela. In all four countries, the Cuban doctors have helped local health professionals establish community-based health delivery systems that focus on health promotion and disease prevention. This contrasts to health care in the industrialized north, which waits for patients to get sick and fights one illness at a time.
Cubans Healthier than Americans
Thanks to their phenomenal workforce and this common sense approach, Cuba is one of the few developing countries that has virtually eradicated malaria. Moreover Cubans experience better overall all health status than Americans. On average, Cubans live longer: 79.07 years compared to 78.74 years for Americans. Cuba also has a lower infant mortality (4.70 per 1,000 live births) than the US (6.2 per 1,000 live births).
In Honduras and Venezuela, Cuban doctors have played an essential role in setting up clinics in barrios and rural areas that are poorly served by Honduran and Venezuelan doctors – both for financial (their barrio patients can’t afford to pay them) and “lifestyle” reasons. Despite their refusal to serve these communities, local doctors responded to the presence of Cuban doctors with mass protests claiming the Cuban medics were threatening their livelihood.
Free Medical Education for International Students
In 1999, Cuba set up the Latin American Medical School, which offers free medical training to low income students from all over the world. In collaboration with the Congressional Black Caucus, they have also opened this medical school to African and Hispanic students from low income US communities.