Cuba ratifies its commitment to universal and free health before PAHO

The Minister of Public Health, José Ángel Portal, ratified Cuba's commitment to the Pan American Health Organization and its member states to guarantee universal access to health services and strengthen its system of health care.

During his intervention in the 56th Directing Council of the international organism, the Cuban minister pointed out that his country fulfilled the goal of Health for All before the year 2000, covering one hundred percent of the population, in a free and totally accessible way, according to information published in the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Despite the damage caused by the criminal, genocidal and unjust blockade imposed by the United States on our country for more than half a century, the political will to raise the health levels of the people prevails in Cuba, he said.

The minister noted, among the main results of the Caribbean nation, a life expectancy at birth of 78.45 years, an infant mortality rate of less than five per thousand live births during a decade and the eradication of 14 infectious diseases.

Portal regretted that "40 years after the Alma-Ata Declaration, many countries in the region have not yet managed to sufficiently address the social and environmental determinants of health to move towards universal health.

Correcting these inequalities, the enormous health differences that can be solved within each country and between countries, is an ethical imperative for all, if we consider that health is an essential component for sustainable human development, he said.

In this regard, the Cuban Minister reiterated the willingness of the Island to share its modest experiences in the field of organization and provision of comprehensive health services, as well as in the development of the medical, pharmaceutical and biotechnological industries with the noble purpose of achieving universal coverage and access in any region of the world.

Cuba attends the LVI Directing Council of the Pan American Health Organization, which meets September 23-27 in Washington, where the headquarters of this international organization is located. (ACN)

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Brasil Popular Highlights Preference for Cuban Female Physicians

Brasilia, Jun 24 (Prensa Latina) The express preference for the care provided by Cuban female physicians who are rendering their services in the Single Healthcare System (SUS) was highlighted here today in the 56th issue of the newspaper Brasil Popular

This is shown by several surveys carried out by academic and scientific institutions, like the State University of Campinas (Unicamp) and the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, said the publication, which recalled the beginning of the More Doctors program, launched in 2013 by then President Dilma Rousseff.

The newspaper added that the Cuban doctors were harassed, disrespected and slandered by Brazilian medical institutions, with support from big media organizations, which are insensitive to the needs of the majority of the people to have health professionals who are willing to do a competitive, humanistic and friendly work.

'Rapidly, thanks to their competence, ethics and dedication, the Cuban doctors, mainly women, went from being damned to be the favorite by SUS users,' Brasil Popular pointed out.

The Cuban female doctors, who had to face the racism and machismo with which they were welcomed by Brazilian institutions, are decorated now for their absolute, spontaneous and sincere preference from their patients, who fear that the coup that overthrew Rousseff will affect the program, whose approval rate exceeds 90 percent, the newspaper noted.

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Marriage may protect against heart disease/stroke and associated risk of death

Marriage may protect against the development of heart disease/stroke as well as influencing who is more likely to die of it, suggests a pooled analysis of the available data, published online in the journal Heart.

The findings prompt the researchers to suggest that marital status should be included as a risk factor for heart disease/stroke and likely survival in its own right.

Most (80%) cardiovascular disease can be attributed to well known risk factors: age; sex; high blood pressure; high cholesterol; smoking; and diabetes. But it's not clear what influences the remaining 20 per cent.

The findings of previous research on the impact of marital status have been somewhat mixed, so in a bid to clarify the issues, the authors trawled research databases for relevant published studies.

They drew on 34 out of a total of 225, all of which had been published between 1963 and 2015, and involved more than 2 million people aged between 42 and 77 from Europe, Scandinavia, North America, the Middle East, and Asia.

Pooled analysis of the data revealed that, compared with people who were married, those who weren't (never married, divorced, widowed) were at heightened risk of developing cardiovascular disease (42%) and coronary artery heart disease (16%).

Not being married was also associated with a heightened risk of dying from both coronary heart disease (42%) and stroke (55%).

When the data were broken down further, the analysis showed that divorce was associated with a 35 per cent higher risk of developing heart disease for both men and women, while widowers of both sexes were 16 per cent more likely to have a stroke.

While there was no difference in the risk of death following a stroke between the married and the unmarried, this was not the case after a heart attack, the risk of which was significantly higher (42%) among those who had never married.

The authors caution that the methods used and adjustments made for potentially influential factors varied considerably across all the studies, which may have affected the results of their analysis.

Similarly, there was no information on same sex partnerships or the quality of marriage, and the potential role of living with someone, as opposed to being married to them, was not explored.

But this is the largest study to date, with the age and ethnicity of the participants strengthening the wider applicability of the findings, the authors point out.

And there are various theories as to why marriage may be protective. These include earlier recognition of, and response to, health problems; better adherence to medication; better financial security; enhanced wellbeing; and better friendship networks.

"Future research should focus around whether marital status is a surrogate marker for other adverse health behaviour or cardiovascular risk profiles that underlies our reported findings or whether marital status should be considered as a risk factor by itself," the authors conclude.

Cuban President Heads Opening of New Hematology Institute

Havana, Jun 16 (Prensa Latina) Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel attended today the opening of a new headquarters of the Institute of Hematology and Immunology, a vital entity for diagnostic studies of these diseases and blood donation programs.

Diaz-Canel was accompanied by the second secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) Jose Ramon Machado Ventura, who inaugurated that institution on December 2, 1966, when he served as Minister of Public Health.

The event was also attended by the current Cuban Minister and Vice President Roberto Morales and the First Secretary of the PCC Provincial Committee, Lazara Mercedes Lopez.

In the opening remarks, its director Consuelo Macias, after recalling the beginnings of the scientific institution and some of its achievements in 52 years of work, listed some of the main projections for the next five years, including rising by 90 percent the level of cure of pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

She also mentioned the introduction of traditional and massive sequencing to identify new diagnoses in hematology and immunological diseases, as well as to achieve more personalized treatments.

Macias considered essential in the sustained work of the center, the creation of the integrated program of the hemophiliac patient, its national registry and the diagnosis of primary immunodeficiency, with multi-center projects extended to the 15 provinces of the nation.

The new entity, which now has 419 employees, has among its main objectives to develop scientific research and technological innovations applied to hematological, immunological, transfusion and regenerative medicine that include clinical trials with biotechnological products.

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Why Cuba Has a Higher Life Expectancy - the Tattered US Healthcare System

A survey compared the United States with 10 other advanced countries. The Netherlands came out on top; the United States dead last.

So frequently is the word 'freedom' employed in the political vernacular, it has come to mean whatever the listener desires.  For Mr. Trump, it is one word in the volcanic plume countering a society's rhythm, designed to attract attention. That he has garnered in spades, enough to win him the highest office in the land.

To many, freedom is an absence of worry. The desire and need for a social fabric knit well to support the basic prerequisites: food, shelter, health and education.  None of them charity, because they are an investment in the fundamental source of a society's well-being: human capital.  

The selfishness of the haves has contributed to a loss of competitiveness. The old GM was paying US$100-$200 per car in health insurance costs, and manufacturers were also forced to provide remedial education for high school graduates to enter the world of complex modern manufacturing. Neither was a similar burden on competitors from Japan and Germany. Suffice to say though that this was not the only reason for problems.

But selfishness is not all with regard to healthcare, the focus of this piece. The biggest culprit by far is general complacency. Added to a Republican majority in Congress and Donald Trump, there is little hope in the near future.

Reading about healthcare recently, I came across an article in a prestigious magazine offering a solution. Affiliated to Stanford, the authors were an MD/MBA candidate and a venture capitalist adjunct. It says it all. Why would a doctor want an MBA? It is not an uncommon program, by the way. The answer is simple and obvious: the medical profession is big business. Did the authors have a prescription? Indeed they did. Force everyone to have insurance and force insurers to insist on primary care.

As a percent of GDP, the United States spends more on healthcare than any other industrialized nation. Yet it lags far behind in measures like child and maternal mortality, life expectancy and chronic illness.

A survey last November by the New York based Commonwealth Fund compared the United States with 10 other advanced countries. The Netherlands came out on top; the United States dead last. By coincidence, the Dutch are the tallest people on earth. "U.S. adults are sicker and have the highest rates of material hardship," observed Robin Osborn who led the survey.

Of note, despite dilapidated facilities in Cuba, universal healthcare has paid off.  Life expectancy is higher than the U.S. by about a year.

The slogan 'Medicare for all' is catchy, and, were it to happen, would transform healthcare. All the same, Medicare has gaps throwing people back into the arms of insurers, and into the morass of bills from hospitals, accounting by insurers as to what is covered, and arguments back and forth; not to mention overcharges by hospitals, which have their own litany of unbelievable tales.

In the British system - under attack by the Conservatives for some time and being gradually dismantled - no one ever sees a bill. It allowed post Second World War generations of poor and disadvantaged to bring up healthy, educated children who contributed to the growth of the country.

If there is an answer to the problems in the U.S. system, it will have to come from independent experts. Profit oriented hospital corporations buying up community hospitals and headed by multi-million salaried CEOs is not the answer.  Neither are for-profit insurers. Who has the guts to pour 'liquid plumber' down this clogged-up drain? That is the real question. The Canadian politician who fought for their healthcare system is a national hero. Any takers here?

Dr Arshad M Khan is a former Professor whose comments over several decades have appeared in a wide-ranging array of print and internet media.

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WHO splurges more on posh travel than it spends on fighting AIDS & malaria – report

The UN’s World Health Organization ponies up some $200 million a year for luxury travel, including first-class tickets and posh hotels – much more than it spends on combatting AIDS, tuberculosis, or malaria, the AP has revealed.

According to internal files obtained by the news agency, since 2013, the World Health Organization (WHO) has allocated $803 million for travel – approximately $200 million per year. The WHO’s two-billion-dollar annual budget is made up of contributions made by 194 member countries, of which the US is the largest sponsor.

© RT

Last year, the WHO allocated just over $60 million to tackling malaria and $59 million to containing the spread of tuberculosis, while $71 million was spent on fighting AIDS and hepatitis. Programs aimed at containing certain diseases, such as polio, do get considerably larger funding, however, with $450 million allocated annually.

Though the organization has been struggling to achieve its goals, while at the same time appealing for more financing, its employees and top brass apparently do not shy away from booking first-class airline tickets and rooms in luxurious five-star hotels.

In particular, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan and Executive Director Bruce Aylward are first and second on the list of the agency’s top spenders, according to a confidential 25-page analysis of the WHO’s expenses seen by AP.

When Chan recently went to Guinea following a successful effort to stop an outbreak of Ebola there, she stayed in the biggest presidential suite at the Palm Camayenne hotel in Conakry, with the price per night amounting to €900 ($1,008). To avoid bumpy roads, Aylward opted to use a chopper to reach clinics on several occasions. 

During the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa, the WHO allocated $234 million to employee travel. Some experts told AP the agency should have sent more money to the poor region – where authorities couldn’t even afford protective gear or soap for medical staff or body bags for the victims – rather than deploy its own staff at such a high cost.

Reuters/Charles Platiau

“There’s a huge inequality between the people at the top who are getting helicopters and business class and everyone else who just has to make do,” said Sophie Harman, a global health politics expert at London-based Queen Mary University.

The UN agency admits that its budget policy had allowed for the director-general to fly first class until February, but said the spending rules have been changed and the first-class option has been effectively eliminated.

However, the organization’s own findings suggest that traveling in comfort is widespread among employees. One internal memorandum sent to WHO executives reported that compliance with a rule requiring all travel to be booked in advance was “very low.” An internal analysis accessed by the AP stated that only two of seven WHO departments at the Geneva headquarters had met their budget targets.

Interestingly, other aid agencies spend less on travel. For instance, Doctors Without Borders explicitly forbids its staff from traveling business class, and even its president flies economy class, a spokeswoman told AP.

Employing about 37,000 aid workers, Doctors Without Borders spends about $43 million a year on travel. In addition, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it does not normally allow staffers to book business class flights and only sanctions it in special cases, such as medical emergencies.

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Obama urges Congress to show 'courage' on healthcare

Former President Barack Obama, in his first public comments about the ongoing debate over his signature healthcare plan, implored members of Congress on Sunday to demonstrate political courage even if it goes against their party's positions.

Obama briefly returned to the spotlight as he accepted the annual John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award at JFK's presidential library in Boston. The award is named for a 1957 Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Kennedy that profiled eight U.S. senators who risked their careers by taking principled though unpopular positions.

In his approximately 30-minute speech after accepting the award, Obama steered clear of partisan attacks and never mentioned his successor, President Donald Trump, who has often criticized the previous administration and has worked to undo many of Obama's initiatives, including the Affordable Care Act.The former president recalled members of Congress who voted to pass the ACA during his presidency, only to lose their seat in later elections.
Obama made no direct reference to Thursday's House vote to dismantle much of the healthcare law but declared that while it did not take courage to help the rich and powerful, it did require courage to help the sick and vulnerable.
"It is my fervent hope and the hope of millions ... such courage is still possible, that today's members of Congress regardless of party are willing to look at the facts and speak the truth, even when it contradicts party positions," said Obama, whose appeal seemed to focus on wavering Republicans.


Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, one of the few Republicans to attend the dinner, told reporters the Senate would write its own version of the legislation and he did not expect the House bill to survive intact.

The former president focused much of his address on the legacy of President Kennedy as the library prepared to mark the 100th anniversary of Kennedy’s birth this month. Obama noted the Kennedys had long advocated for healthcare reform, and in particular, the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, who died of brain cancer before passage of the Affordable Care Act.

Among the guests who made their way down the red carpet into the library for the event were representatives of the Kennedy family, members of Congress, former Obama staffers and celebrities including former late-night talk show host David Letterman. Former Vice President Joe Biden and former Secretary of State John F. Kerry also were in attendance.

U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III, a Massachusetts Democrat, said Obama earned the award by meeting many challenges that faced him during his presidency.

"It's about understanding the challenges we face as a country and as a planet and mustering the political will to do what is right even if what is right at that moment isn't necessarily popular," said Kennedy, a harsh critic of the GOP health overhaul plan.

Caroline Kennedy, JFK's daughter who served as Ambassador to Japan, and Jack Schlossberg, Kennedy's grandson, presented the award.

Schlossberg, 24, and planning to attend Harvard Law School, said Obama inspired him the way an earlier generation was inspired by his grandfather.

"Without Barack Obama, I might still be sitting on my couch, eating Doritos and watching sports," he said.

Though the former president has steered away from any involvement in U.S. affairs during his early months out of office, he forayed into the French political debate last week by posting a message of endorsement for centrist presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron, who defeated his far right rival Marine Le Pen in Sunday's election.

On Monday, Obama travels to Italy to give a keynote address on climate change and food security at Tuesday's Seeds and Chips Global Food Innovation Summit in Milan.

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Cuba Ensures Care for People with Disability

Geneva, Oct 4 (Prensa Latina) Cuba guarantees particular attention to people with disabilities, based on the support of government institutions and civil society, according to reports delivered during the Social Forum that continues today in Geneva.

Convened by the UN Human Rights Council, the event began yesterday and runs to tomorrow. The aim of which is to promote debate among actors in civil society.

Addressing the forum, the President of the Cuban National Association of the Deaf, Alejandro Marzo Peña, said that the Caribbean nation has a National Action Plan which includes commitments established, assuring programs and development strategies, regulated and controlled by the National Council for the Care of People with Disabilities.

The strong movement is well structured to guarantee the rights of citizens with this condition, he said.

Marzo Peña also said that access to the health and education systems is a right guaranteed to every Cuban.

He also highlighted 'the rights of people with disabilities included in the Social Security Act, Motherhood and the Labor Code, whose benefits are extended to all workers, including those in the non-state sector.'

In particular reference to employment, he said that access to it is ensured without any discrimination and in accordance with functional capacities, adaptive skills and training.

The representative of the Caribbean nation said that his country had ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, a document that has been released to all civil society.

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