The Promise of a Strong U.S.-Cuba Health Partnership

Earlier this year, President Obama laid out the Administration’s vision for a new relationship with Cuba -- one built on cooperation and collaboration on the interests we share. Two weeks ago, I visited Havana to further that vision and lay the groundwork for partnership on specific health priorities.

At a clinic in Havana, I learned about the improvements doctors have implemented to increase life expectancy and lower the infant mortality rate. I heard about the advances Cuban scientists are making in neurological research. And I spent time with health care providers who shared some of their best strategies for caring for patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

A pregnant woman watches the monitor of an ultrasound scanner as she receives medical attention at a facility for pregnant women in Old Havana. [AP Photo]

I also had a chance to meet with Cuban Minister of Health Roberto Morales Ojeda. Together, we committed to collaborate on a goal our nations share: ending cancer as we know it. Thanks to our new arrangement, experts in cancer from the U.S. and Cuba will have the opportunity to share information and work collaboratively. Minister Morales Ojeda and I also joined other health ministers from the Americas to discuss ways we can work together to fight Zika, a significant public health challenge that our nations face.

A government fumigator sprays a home for mosquitos in Havana, Cuba. [AP Photo]

While our partnerships on health are still at an early stage, it’s clear the United States and Cuba have many shared goals -- from ensuring that everyone can access quality care, to fighting cancer, to protecting people from health threats like Zika, and much more. But for our work together on these issues to reach its full impact, we need to keep finding new ways to advance U.S.-Cuba normalization. Thanks to the historic effort by the Obama Administration, that’s the course we’re on. If we keep at it, we can ensure that people -- no matter where they live -- can have access to the building blocks for healthy and productive lives.

United States Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell, left, and Cuba's Public Health Minister Roberto Morales Ojeda sign an understanding memorandum in Havana, Cuba, on October 20, 2016. [AP Photo]

About the Author: Sylvia Mathews Burwell serves as the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 
Editor's Note: This entry originally appeared on the HHS blog.

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United States Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell, right, arrives to the Vedado Policlinic for a visit in Havana, Cuba, on October 20, 2016. [AP Photo]
November 7, 2016


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