(RHC) – In his defense plea in the trial for the attacks on the Moncada and Carlos Manuel de Céspedes garrisons, in 1953, the leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro, expressed his belief in one of the fundamental human rights, that of free universal health care.
Sixty years later, nationwide health programs based on this premise yield striking results. Cuba has the lowest mortality rate in Latin America, standing at 4.2 per thousand live births in 2013. This represents a big milestone, if compared to the pre-1959 period, when half of the newly born died.
What authorities haven’t been able to reverse is the decline in the birth rate that we have witnessed in Cuba since 1978. According to preliminary data from the latest national population census, Cuba has 11,167,325 inhabitants, 10,418 fewer than a decade ago, a phenomenon exacerbated by low fertility rates and emigration of some 38,000 Cubans a year.
Today, more than 95 000 students are enrolled in medical schools across the country. At all levels of higher education, there are 13 different career options in the scientific category and 24 in technology.
Of the 95,000 medical school students more than 29 000 students are enrolled in postgraduate courses in all medical specialties, from general medicine to neurosurgery.
It is notable that 10,510 of medical students in the graduate and postgraduate levels come from 128 other countries.
Cuba dedicates over 15% of its GDP to health care and the government funds other investigations such as anti-cancer vaccines, cellular therapy, and AIDS treatment.
The country currently covers 65% of its pharmaceutical consumption with domestically produced drugs and imports others for the treatment of diabetes, AIDS and cancer, and distributes them at subsidized prices.
This level of production is the result of heavy investment in that industry, which has alleviated the drug shortages experienced in the 1990s. The production and marketing of pharmaceutical products in Cuba is controlled by the state and medications are available at subsidized prices. Likewise, the state has stepped up efforts in the development of alternative medicine and the production of herbal and honey medicaments, and these have enjoyed great success with the public.
Medical drugs and equipment, particularly vaccines, are currently Cuba’s second most-lucrative exported goods, among them stands out the Heberprot-P, produced by the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology to treat diabetic foot ulcers. This groundbreaking drug has helped already thousands of patients in Cuba and other countries, who otherwise would have undergone partial or total amputations.
The Cuban Center of Molecular Immunology has also developed vaccines to treat different types of malignant tumors, including lung cancer, the most common form of cancer in Cuba.
Cuba wrapped up 2013 with two high-level scientific events that brought together experts from all corners of the world. These were Psychology 2013 and the Sixth International Symposium on Brain Death and Consciousness Disorders.
In spite of the ongoing world economic crisis and the inhuman economic blockade imposed by the United States on Cuba, the willingness to work for the well-being of others and the high quality of Cuban professionals, have helped find effective solutions for new challenges that emerged during 2013, such as the outbreaks of cholera and dengue reported in several parts of the country, which were brought under control by the National Epidemiological Surveillance System with the cooperation of the population.
Similarly, the Cuban medical cooperation missions in 60 nations continue to discharge their duties with great success, and this year this has been augmented by the participation of 4000 Cuban professionals in Brazil’s More Doctors program, launched by President Dilma Rousseff to improve the access to quality health care of that country’s inhabitants.