Health of the People Show more Show less
How did Fidel Castro improve the physical wellbeing of Cuba's civilians?
Even critics of Fidel Castro commend his restructuring of Cuba's healthcare system. Healthcare is free for all Cuban citizens and there are no private healthcare clinics, with the state assuming responsibility and around 10% of the country's GDP poured into the system. The effects of this investment in health have been tangible, and as such this was arguably one of the most positive outcomes from the 1959 Cuban Revolution.
When Castro seized power in 1959, he focused on creating a healthcare system that was efficient and essential to improving the dire conditions that many of his countrymen were living in. Castro believed that good healthcare was vital for the economy of a country, and so money was invested in training up doctors and physicians. In his 1960 essay 'On Revolutionary Medicine,' Castro emphasised the importance of healthcare and laid out his plans for Cuba, "The work that today is entrusted to the Ministry of Health and similar organizations is to provide public health services for the greatest possible number of persons, institute a program of preventive medicine, and orient the public to the performance of hygienic practices." Castro's healthcare vision was recorded in the Cuban Constitution in 1976, which states '"Everybody has the right to health protection and care. The State guarantees this right''. The state of Cuba assumed responsibility for the healthcare provision, in a tiered approach which encompassed everything from local practices to more sophisticated medical research institutes. The Cuban state currently spends roughly 10% of its GDP on healthcare in order to fund a free healthcare service that can be accessed by any of its citizens for free.  Castro's attitude to public healthcare has been a resounding success, with huge tangible improvements visible in the health of the Cuban people. Since 1959, the infant mortality rate has fallen drastically from 37.3 to 4.3 per 1000 live births. Its life expectancy has also jumped from 70.04 in 1970 to 78.7 in 2016.  The success of Castro's attitude to healthcare has had international effects, with Cuba regularly sending healthcare professionals abroad to provide aid to developing countries.  It's estimated some 30,000 Cubans are currently working abroad in medical vocations, illustrating that Cuban medical expertise is in demand. One of the most important, lasting legacies of the 1959 Cuban Revolution has been its healthcare provision. Castro personally played a part in the development of the current system, as shown through his extensive writings on the matter including in his essay 'On Revolutionary Medicine'.
Some journalists and politicians have been skeptical of the health data emerging from Cuba. It is important to remember that their statistics are not verified by an independent body and therefore caution is urged when taking some of their health care success stories at face value. According to the Washington Post, the Cuban healthcare system is perhaps not as well-equipped and successful as the Regime suggests. There are reports of Cuban hospitals lacking key equipment and pharmacies being low on stocks. There is also apparently a thriving black market where healthcare goods can be bought. This suggests that perhaps the system is not as successful as it is internationally portrayed.
Rejecting the premises