Cuban Medical Internationalism
Health care is a fundamental human right under the constitution of Cuba. And, while the communist nation struggles in various social and economic areas, it is generally regarded as having a strong health care system. It focuses on a community-based strategy involving an army of primary-care physicians – twice as many per capita as in the United States. Some argue that this is the primary reason Cubans have almost an identical life expectancy to Americans. At the same time, Cuba spends less than 10% of what the US spends per capita on health care.
Al Jazeera reports that Cuba has a history of “medical interationalism.” In the last half-decade, a couple hundred thousand Cuban doctors have established permanent medical missions around the world, in countries such as Brazil, South Africa, and Qatar. It sent some 100 doctors to the front lines during the 2014 Sierra Leone Ebola crisis. So far in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the country has reportedly dispatched 179 doctors, 399 nurses and 15 health technologists from their Henry Reeve Emergency Medical Contingent. However, despite these impressive statistics, some critics claim that Cuban health workers are underpaid and exploited by their government.
The United States currently imposes a commercial, economic, and financial embargo against Cuba and has done so since 1958. Many contend that these measures have done little more than to cause suffering among the Cuban people. Despite the embargo, the Cuban autocracy has clung to power for decades. Primarily during his second term, President Obama began easing restrictions and reestablishing relations with Cuba. However, President Trump has reverted to harsh measures and even introduced new restrictions.