A national commitment to community health has been the hallmark of Cuba's health system for the past five decades, and one that has fascinated Dr. Robert Winn, associate vice president for community-based practice at the University of Illinois Hospital and Health Sciences System.
He thinks his Cuban colleagues could have the key to improving the health of people in some of Chicago's most impoverished neighborhoods.
“Not only do they actually try to educate their patients about medicine, but they really educate their patients in the context of having the community take care of one another,” said Winn. "There's a sense of social capital where they think that a part of healthcare is not just the delivery of the medicine, but it's also the active participation of the community in their own health.”
Community involvement was one of the key insights he gained after UI Health recently hosted officials from the Cuban Ministry of Health.
The two organizations are launching a two-year initiative aimed at sharing best practices in providing community-based care. The goal is to reduce infant mortality rates, as well as improve maternal health and cancer screening.
Cuba, which offers universal healthcare, has one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world with an estimated 4.5 deaths for every 1,000 live birth in 2016. The U.S., on the other hand, has one of the highest infant mortality rates among wealthy nations, at 5.8 deaths for every 1,000, ranking just behind Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Cuban doctors are considered extraordinarily competent despite using outdated equipment and medical treatments and lacking financial support.