Whenever I hear Cubans talk about their nation’s advancements in health care, and when I think about where the U.S. is on all this, what I hear is a tale of two scarcities. The tales, however, end differently for the people of color who are the main characters.
Although Cuba has, for the past five decades, struggled to bring health care to all its citizens in the wake of a U.S. embargo that’s crippled its ability to purchase drugs and medical equipment, it has kept most of its people well because it cannot afford for them to get sick.
“If you don’t see the doctor, the doctor will come to see you,” Juan Jacomino, a Radio Havana journalist who acted as our guide during a recent trip to one of the island’s many polyclinics, told me.
So Cuba has taken great steps to build health care around family and community. Physicians and nurses share the same neighborhoods with their patients. If someone isn’t going for checkups, it doesn’t go unnoticed. And its people, the majority of whom are of African descent, still manage to live as long as or longer than many people in the U.S.