Cuba outperforms U.S. healthcare in cost-effectiveness – by a large margin

A newborn baby rests beside his mother at the Ana Betancourt de Mora Hospital in Camaguey, Cuba, June 19, 2015, the week the World Health Organization declared Cuba the first country in the world to eliminate the transmission of HIV and syphilis from mother to child

Cuba achieves nearly the same outcomes in 4 key indicators while spending 15 times less per capita, according to statistics gathered from the World Health Organization. A RAND blog post by Melody Harvey and Claire E. O’Hanlon, Doing more with less: Lessons from Cuba’s Healthcare system, summarizes the key differences, including medical education, between the two countries.

Cuban medical schools, which are government-run and tuition-free, incorporate primary care, public health, and social determinants in their curricula in ways that U.S. schools are just beginning to do.

The post describes several key differences between the two countries approaches to health care. For example, Cuba employs a doctor and nurse team called a consultorio who divide their day into on-site care and public health promotion. In the public health part of their work physicians focus on a residential area rather than on self-selecting patients. Therefore, they are more likely to reach out to those who typically avoid interaction with the health care system — an initiative much less common in the United States.

For more information also see the Commentary in Georgetown Journal of International Affairs.

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