Cuba’s health system works because it does one thing that other system’s don’t: It “fosters a holistic approach centered around on a relationship with a primary-care physician.”

The holistic approach doesn’t just assess your physical condition, but also your environment, stress level, mental condition, and how all of these factors play together. That goes a long way to helping people stay healthy, allows doctors to identify risks early, and take preventative measures accordingly.

As a poor country, Cuba can’t afford to equivocate and waste money on health care. Much advanced technology is unavailable. So the system is forced instead to keep people healthy. … It’s largely done, as the BBC has reported, through an innovative approach to primary care. Family doctors work in clinics and care for everyone in the surrounding neighborhood. At least once a year, the doctor knocks on your front door (or elsewhere, if you prefer) for a check-up. More than the standard American ritual of listening to your heart and lungs and asking if you’ve noticed any blood coming out of you abnormally, these check-ups involve extensive questions about jobs and social lives and environment—information that’s aided by being right there in a person’s home.

At the same time, completing a course in holistic health recently has had me realize how I’ve missed many ‘initial signs’ already, thinking that they are ‘normal’ or ‘incurable’. Some examples: Hard poop. Menstrual pains. Tiredness. Hair loss. Migraines. Joint inflammation. Sound familiar? Then maybe you should have a look at what a holistic health approach can offer to improve your wellbeing. The examples that I’ve mentioned are things that, with appropriate action and no significant additional costs, have either improved or completely disappeared in my life – much to my amazement.

While a holistic approach can’t solve all health problems, it certainly can improve quality of life, and I think that’s a message worth spreading. If you feel particularly spoken to, then do reach out – nothing could be more rewarding than to empower another person with the gift of their own improved health!

More information: How Cubans Live as Long as Americans at a Tenth of the Cost – The Atlantic

8 Replies to “Case Study: Cuba’s holistic approach to health”

  1. It's not just Cuba have less money to spend on health care, although they do spend a higher percentage of GDP than many other countries, but the US blockade is a major obstacle to getting some medical equipment and medicine.

  2. +Per Siden Sure, they can't get all the latest and greatest medical equipment, etc. That brings costs down. But then, without the latest and greatest, there's still the unexplainable result: how do they manage to keep life expectancy the same as in the US?

    I think the answer lies in what holistic health calls out: your health, and life expectancy, is dependent on a number of things, from your environment, to your social support network, to more personal things like your friends, your lifestyle, and your attitude.

    +Michael-Forest M. That's what needs to be learned here: as +John Poteet says, 'These things add up.' You can move, you can decide whether to eat a hamburger or a salad, you can change your environment, and you do have the choice to bike to work. And if you are in a crisis, you will make drastic changes. But why do you need a crisis to arise in order to change your life to your benefit, instead of doing so all along? Preventative health measures needs to be supported by culture and by policy, not condemned by it.

  3. +Sophie Wrobel true, but the blockade also in some cases prevent access to cheaper medicines and medical equipment. I think catheters is one such example. The inferior models that are accessible to Cuban doctors cost about the same as new and modern ones, but treatment cost increases. Instead of one surgery a patient may have to go through many. The blockade is a tough burden, even if it may have triggered some really clever alternative solutions.

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