In Cuba, Every Child Counts

Por Ana Laura Arbesú*

Jan 7, Havana (Prensa Latina) An infant mortality rate of less than five deaths per 1,000 live births over a decade, as well as a decrease in low weight at birth, are among Cuba”s achievements in childcare in 2017.

Cuba’s contributions to a safe childhood are palpable every year, and last year’s statistics are more encouraging.

The infant mortality rate below five deaths per every 1,000 live births, with 4.04, is already an accomplished fact. It is the lowest rate in the country’s history, experts noted.

Data provided by the Department of Medical Records and Health Statistics, show that 114,980 births were reported in 2017, 1,892 fewer than in 2016.

In addition, 465 children under one year of age died, 32 fewer than in 2016, being the lowest number of deaths so far.

Experts explained that such achievements result from the consolidation of transformations in primary health care, but also from an integrated National Healthcare System, along with the government’s will to guarantee universal and free access to every service.

This is the result of the integration of the entire healthcare system, Public Health Minister Roberto Morales noted in a report on the sector’s major achievements. The breakthroughs in child care are also evident due to the consolidation of the Mother-Child Program, which focuses on the mother and the baby’s health since conception.

The report explained that the results are also related to improvements in the functioning of maternal homes, as well as the development of the community genetic network and the progress made by the program for prevention, diagnosis and treatment of genetic diseases.

Children in Cuba receive better care at special perinatal wards. The survival rate at neonatal services is 98.9 percent, according to statistics publised at the end of 2017.

The minister pointed out that incidence of low weight at birth has also been reduced from 5.2 to 5.0 per 100 births.

He noted that the maternal mortality rate dropped from 42.6 to 38.0 per 100,000 live births, and the mortality rate of children in school age decreased from 2.1 to 1.7 per for every 10,000 inhabitants of that age group, he said.

The country has eliminated diseases such as poliomyelitis, diphtheria, neonatal tetanus, whooping cough, measles, rubella and mumps, stated Morales.

Cuba also showed a decrease in the incidence of bacterial meningitis by 7 percent and of viral infection by 21 percent, as well as the number of cases of imported malaria, gonorrhea, genital herpes and condyloma acuminatum, the minister added.

Those results were achieved due to the fact that Cuba has administered the required doses of 12 different types of vaccines since birth, thus contributing to preventing 13 diseases. Eight of those vaccines are made in Cuba and all children are immunized free of charge.

In Cuba, child care begins at birth, when a blood sample is taken from the umbilical cord and the heel to test the newborns for endocrine-metabolic and genetic diseases that can be treated successfully on time.

As a key outcome of the Mother-Child Program, Cuba has maintained the impact indicators achieved in 2015. They made Cuba the first country that was certified by the World Health Organization for eliminating mother-to-child transmission of HIV and congenital syphilis, with figures ranging between zero and 0.04 percent per 1,000 live births, respectively.

* Head of the Science and Technology Desk at Prensa Latina.

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