Cuban Health Care: The Ongoing Revolution

by Don Fitz

Quiet as it’s kept inside the United States, the Cuban revolution has achieved some phenomenal goals, reclaiming Cuba’s agriculture, advancing its literacy rate to nearly 100 percent—and remaking its medical system. Cuba has transformed its health care to the extent that this “third-world” country has been able to maintain a first-world medical system, whose health indicators surpass those of the United States at a fraction of the cost. Don Fitz combines his broad knowledge of Cuban history with his decades of on-the-ground experience in Cuba to bring us the story of how Cuba’s health care system evolved and how Cuba is tackling the daunting challenges to its revolution in this century.

Fitz weaves together complex themes in Cuban history, moving the reader from one fascinating story to another. He describes how Cuba was able to create a unified system of clinics, and evolved the family doctor-nurse teams that became a model for poor countries throughout the world. How, in the 1980s and ‘90s, Cuba survived the encroachment of AIDS and increasing suffering that came with the collapse of the Soviet Union, and then went on to establish the Latin American School of Medicine, which still brings thousands of international students to the island. Deeply researched, recounted with compassion, Cuban Health Care tells a story you won’t find anywhere else, of how, in terms of caring for everyday people, Cuba’s revolution continues.

This is the best written and most accurate work published in years about the history and recent achievements of Cuban health care. The book gives inspiration for people around the world concerned about the future of health care and health itself. —Howard Waitzkin, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, University of New Mexico; coordinator, Health Care Under the Knife: Moving Beyond Capitalism for Our HealthAn extraordinary book about an extraordinary health care system. —Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, Distinguished Professor of Public Health, City University of New York; co-founder, Physicians for a National Health Program

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This book offers an outstanding overview of many aspects of Cuba’s multifaceted approach to healthcare, at home and abroad. Well researched and insightful, with solid data and extensive research, this is essential reading for any seeking to understand how this small country has such an enviable record at home (better in many aspects than the US system, and at a fraction of the cost), while leading the world in medical internationalism. —John M. Kirk, Professor of Latin American Studies at Dalhousie University, Canada

I have never visited Cuba, but I learned so much by serving as the medical reviewer for Don Fitz’s book! Since 1959, Cuba has done a remarkable job rebuilding and improving their health care system. Cuba now deploys a just system of primary care down to the neighborhood level across the entire island. American and Cuban medical leaders could learn from each other, if they spent the time to speak and truly listen to each other. Don Fitz has written a well-referenced book, and his words deserve a broad audience! —Gary M. Gaddis, MD, PhD; Fellow of the International Federation for Emergency Medicine; Professor of Emergency Medicine, Washington University, Saint Louis School of Medicine

This text offers a thorough examination of the history of Cuba’s public health system. It is an important read for anyone interested in understanding how and why Cuba built a world renown health care system based on preventative care. Fitz puts Cuba’s commitment to medical internationalism into context by outlining the history of the small island nation where poverty and disease were once rampant and telling the story of how, against all odds, it built a world class health care system and made it available to some of the poorest nations of the world. —Gail Walker, Executive Director, IFCO/Pastors for Peace

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How can a small island nation, subjected to six decades of US antagonism, provide universal health care, fund a world-class biotech industry, educate thousands of doctors from around the world, and collaborate in global staffing, disaster relief and epidemic control? For the curious (and dubious), Cuban Health Care answers that question. In today’s context, where climate change, pandemics, and rampant chronic disease threaten human and planetary health, Don Fitz’s new book serves as a road map for how to shift the paradigm towards a more equitable, humanistic health care approach. Based on extensive interviews and exhaustive, evidence-based research, this should be required reading for anyone interested in building a healthier future for all. If Cuba can do it, other countries can, too. —Conner Gorry, Senior Editor, MEDICC Review; founder, Cuba Libro

Underscored by the disastrous American medical and political response to the Covid-19 pandemic, Cuban Health Care: The Ongoing Revolution should receive as wide a readership as possible. Expertly written, effectively organized, and thoroughly ‘reader friendly’ in presentation, Cuban Health Care is extraordinarily informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking. —Midwest Book Review

Don Fitz is a member of the editorial board of Green Social Thought and newsletter editor for the Green Party of St. Louis. He contributes frequently to Monthly Review magazine.

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