Cuba is among countries which provide the broadest access to healthcare, meaning a longer and better quality of life for its citizens, as well as more medical consultations and surgeries, and the application of new diagnostic methods and treatments through a nationwide healthcare system focused on constantly developing and improving knowledge.
One of the sector’s key achievements has been to maintain an infant mortality rate below five per 1,000 live births for the last 10 years. In 2017, the country achieved a rate of 4.0; proof of its continued efforts to consolidate maternal-infant statistics, to the benefit of Cuban children and families. Meanwhile, heart conditions, cancer and brain diseases are the three main causes of death on the island, where life expectancy at birth is 78.45 years (50.45 for women and 76.50 for men) and the morality rate for seniors over the age of 60 stands at 29 for every 100,000 inhabitants.
Last year, 53 hospitals and 13 medical specialties received new technologies to perform minimal access surgery. I could quote more statistics from the end of 2017 presented by the Ministry of Public Health, but those already mentioned encapsulate the great human effort undertaken by Cuba to provide quality medical care to the entire population,
despite being an underdeveloped nation and victim of an unjust economic blockade imposed by the most powerful nation on Earth, the United States. Among the healthcare sector’s recent accomplishments, it is also worth mentioning exportable products like the vaccine CimaVax, used to treat lung cancer patients and protect those at risk of developing the disease. The medication is currently available across all medical institutions on the island and also registered in various countries.
Meanwhile, this year, the final stages of research are being conducted on promising cancer treatments developed by Cuban scientists, including Racotumomab and VSSP. The former triggers an immune response against a tumor antigen present in malignant cells, meaning that the medication could one day be used to treat leukemia, as well as lung, breast, prostate, and colon cancer. While VSSP, which was originally designed as a composite to boost patients’ immune system, also shows signs of stimulating the body’s immune response against cancer.
Nimotuzumab is also another important medication designed to treat different types of brain and neck cancer, including those which form in the mouth, nose, brain, and throat.
The medication, a humanized therapeutic monoclonal antibody, blocks epidermal growth factor receptors in cancerous cells, stopping their spread and growth.
Then there is Heberferon, a fast and long-lasting medication proven to reduce the size of tumors and wounds in skin cancer patients. With no need for complex surgical procedures, the medication offers positive aesthetic results and better quality of life for the patient. Meanwhile, Policosanol, also known as PPG and created from sugar cane, contains anti-platelet, anti-ischemic, anti-thrombotic and natural properties, making it a versatile medication with few side effects, used to treat various conditions but above all to reduce cholesterol.
Likewise, the use of Heberprot-P with almost 290,000 patients from over a dozen countries is proof of its effectiveness in healing complex wounds, and ischemic and diabetic foot ulcers. According to its developers, the treatment is an epidermal growth factor-based formulation applied to the affected area with a healing time of around three months. This important achievements, along with a series of other scientific results obtained by Cuban experts, will be presented in Havana, during the 14th International Health for All Fair, taking place April 23-27 at the Pabexpo fairgrounds, with exhibitors from 19 countries and 160 companies, according to MSc. Raquel Acosta Porta, vice president of Development at Medicuba, responsible for exporting Cuban medical products, technologies and equipment, speaking to Granma International. “The Health for All Fair is our sector’s most important trade fair and the ideal space to bring together Cuban business representatives and professionals from around the world, offering the opportunity to develop networks, establish work agreements and identify new business partners. Likewise, from a scientific perspective, the event allows participants to develop their knowledge around new technologies in the field of medicine,” explained the director.
Taking place parallel to the Fair will be the 2018 International Cuba Salud Convention at Havana’s International Conference Center, with the participation of 44 sector ministers, in an event that aims to serve as a space for scientific debate, and to present the latest advances and challenges in topics such as quality of care, international cooperation, medical education, and universal health coverage. Two forums will take place during the Convention, one on the clinical trials regulatory body, and another related to foreign investment, organized by the Cuban Chamber of Commerce, with the participation of the BioCubaFarma group which will present new projects focused on the development of medications, and the Cuban Medical Services provider (SMC). In this regard, Dr. Yamila de Armas Águila, first vice president of SMC, explained that tribute will be paid to Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro Ruz, who pioneered Cuban medical internationalism. Also an assistant professor at Havana’s University of Medical Sciences and family medicine specialist, Dr. Armas Águila noted that the event will focus on Cuban medical services for international patients; health tourism centered on wellbeing and quality of life; participation in scientific events; and the training of health professionals in Cuban universities. Meanwhile, a space will also be dedicated to the leading health programs for international clients as well as a new initiative called: The Water Trail, designed to promote thermal and seaside spas. “We hope to develop a close alliance between medical and eco-tourism,” noted the doctor.
RESULTS OF THE NATIONAL HEALTHCARE SYSTEM IN 2017
1. Infant mortality: The island achieved its lowest rate in the country’s history with 4.040 infant deaths for every 1,000 live births, representing 35 fewer fatalities in children under one year of age as compared to 2016.
2. As a result of the development and continual improvement of the Genetic Network initiative, infant mortality caused by congenital defects stands at 0.9 for every 1,000 live births.
3. Morality among children of school age dropped from 2.1 to 1.7 for every 10,000, with 67 less deaths that year.
4.The rate of under weight infants at birth fell from 5.2 to 5.0 for every 100 births.
5.The maternal mortality rate dropped from 42.6 to 37.8 per 100,000 live births
Elderly care program
1. Life expectancy at birth: 78.45 years; 80.45 for women and 76.50 for men.
2. 19.8% of the Cuban population is 60 years of age or older.The mortality rate among the elderly remains 29 per every 100,000 persons aged 60 or older.
3. A continuous decline has been seen in the mortality rate among those aged 75 or older (from 62.4 to 61.9).
4. There are now 287 centers for the elderly (an increase of 11) catering to 9,838 citizens (+390) and 150 seniors homes (+2) with 11,912 beds (+141).
5. There are currently 51 geriatrics departments across healthcare institutions nationwide with 1,049 hospital beds (+22), or one bed per 2,000 elderly citizens.
6. 2017 saw a rise in the availability of health technology and equipment including hearing aids offered at 62 pharmacies across the entire country, as well as wheel chairs, canes, walkers, and hospital beds, among others, benefiting 101,582 patients.
Donation & transplant program
1. 145 organ donations allowed for 454 transplants to be performed, 19 more than 2016, including 198 kidney, 22 liver, 34 bone marrow, and 200 cornea.
2. Meeting targets for the blood donation program has been fundamental to supporting medical services and the production of components and other biotechnology and pharmaceutical products. Of the 408,708 target, a total 411,868 donations were made during 2017.
Comprehensive center control program
1. In order to guarantee cancer treatment for the population, 45 regional oncology centers were opened, 25 specializing in nuclear medicine and nine in radiotherapy.
2. Cancer screening has helped improve early detection, above all for cervical, skin, and breast cancer, allowing for better control and treatment of the disease.
3. The cancer mortality rate has remained the same over the last three years.
4. A reduction was seen in the cancer mortality rate among people aged 19 or younger (-14.2%) as well as those under 69 years of age (breast -4.45%; cervical -2.38%, colon -2.04%)