If there is one thing of which Fidel Castro can be unequivocally proud, it’s Cuba’s health system. Enviable life expectancy and infant mortality statistics speak for themselves; innovative approaches towards conventional medicine, alternative therapies and primary healthcare are all largely to thank for this. But the Caribbean island’s impact on world health is a more extraordinary and little told story. This is globalization with a radical difference. Currently some 30,000 Cuban doctors are providing high-quality care in over 70, mainly poor, countries. Cuban medical teams were among the first to respond to Pakistan’s 2005 earthquake – and the few to stick around after the snows came. On the island itself, medical training is provided for would-be doctors from abroad, including, surprisingly, many from the US. One such trainee doctor– not wealthy enough to afford medical training back home – remarks that no-one had ever mentioned ‘health as a right’ to her until she came to Cuba. Thoroughly researched and with heart-warming personal accounts, Tom Fawthrop’s Swimming Against the Tide is an inspiration; a timely reminder of what public health is meant to be all about. Essential viewing for healthcare professionals – and users – anywhere in the world.
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