Cuba’s health miracle is built on a lie, claim US scholars

By Gatonye Gathura

Cuba’s highly regarded healthcare ‘miracle,’ being copied by Kenya and others in Africa is built on a lie, claim American scholars at the Texas Tech University.

In an ongoing lively debate in the journal of Health Policy and Planning, it is claimed the Cuba miracle is a combination of data manipulation, coercion and unforeseen by products of policies unrelated to health.

The debate was kicked up early last month by scholars who argued that the praise being heaped on Cuba health system is largely unjustified.

For example on the low infant death rates the authors argue that physicians in Cuba are likely to delay reporting the deaths to later dates to artificially show lower infant mortality.

This way, the authors say Cuban physicians are likely to meet the low targets for infant mortality set by the government.

Women with suspect pregnancies where foetuses are defective or there are survival doubts are likely to be coerced into termination.

Cuba doctors, the authors says will coerce or pressurize patients into having abortions to artificially improve infant mortality by preventing marginally riskier births.

“At 72.8 abortions per 100 births, Cuba has one of the highest abortion rates in the world,” write the authors.

They also cite health unrelated policies as having accidentally contributed to high longevity in Cuba.

For example, due to the heavily restricted car ownership in Cuba, the authors argue there are few traffic accidents in the island.

“All else being equal, government restrictions of car ownership improves Cuban life expectancy by reducing accidents.”

The low rates of car ownership, the authors say has also had other positive but unintended consequences such as high ownership of bicycles and more walking which are good for human health and longevity.

They also cite restrictive policies on purchase of goods which translated to lower consumption of high energy foods and low obesity and overweight in Cuba.

Stripped of manipulated data, the authors argue that life expectancy in Cuba falls behind most of its neighbours.

Any achievements the authors say are as a result of government’s choice to allocate more resources into the health care at the expense of other industries that could produce needed goods.

The scholars, question how a poor country like Cuba can logically afford high health standards as is reported for the Castro Nation.

“Wealth and health are correlated because greater wealth can buy better health care. Yet, Cuba remains desperately poor and appears to be healthy. How?”

The authors in a thread which traverses throughout the ensuing debate are for the US and other countries not to uncritically adopt the Cuban health model.

The want countries not to uncritically accept the myth that the Cuban health care system has been the sole, or even the most important, cause of Cuba’s abnormally high longevity statistics.

Cuban life expectancies of 79.5 years and infant mortality rates of 4.3 per 1000 live births are among the highest in the world compared to its economic status.

“The role of Cuban economic and political oppression in coercing ‘good’ health outcomes merits further study,” recommend the authors.

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