A delegation of healthcare workers, including NYSNA nurses and SEIU1199 doctors and social workers, traveled to Cuba in November to study that nation’s health system. The research delegation met with public health officials, doctors, nurses, teachers, trade unionists and community groups to learn about Cuba’s approach to providing healthcare.
More than 11 million citizens of Cuba are guaranteed free, universal healthcare. Despite being a low wealth nation and enduring a decades-long trade embargo by the U.S, the Cuban healthcare system has achieved remarkable health outcomes, increasing life expectancy from 60 years to 79 within the last 50 years.
The healthcare system in Cuba is focused on comprehensive family medicine, where every 1,000 people have access to a family doctor, no matter where they live. Beyond family doctors, there are policlinics and hospitals to meet greater needs, such as lab tests and surgeries. The delegation also toured a maternity home which provides preventative care to high-risk expectant mothers, and a rehabilitation center, which utilizes therapies such as acupuncture and massage.
In Cuba, doctors and nurses are focused on four aspects of maintaining the health of the population: assessing community health needs, prevention, promotion of health, and rehabilitation. Healthcare professionals are expected to know the medical histories for everyone they treat, as well as the local living conditions and social determinants of health.
People from all over the world come to Cuba to study to become doctors and pay no tuition.
Our delegation had a chance to meet with five medical students from the U.S. who are currently studying at ELAM (the Latin American School of Medicine) and intend to return home to serve underserved communities in Brooklyn, Wisconsin, Chicago, Houston and San Francisco.
Much to learn
“I hope more members can experience this trip,” said NYSNA President Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez, RN, who led this first-ever NYSNA delegation. “Not only do you learn about the Cuban healthcare system, but also you learn a lot about yourself. Our fight for healthcare reforms has to be seen in the broader context of changing things in a big way in our country. We have the resources to be an amazing country, so let’s keep fighting!”
The delegation is putting together a report summarizing the findings of the tour. For members interested in participating in the next delegation this spring, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.