New Internationalist

Swimming Against the Tide

Issue 412

directed by Tom Fawthrop

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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