Cuba and Philippines: Common Colonial History, Different Gov’t Systems

Cuba and the Philippines have something in common: they were former colonies of Spain and later the United States. These former colonies, however, gained their independence differently.

Northern Dispatch
Posted by Bulatlat
Vol. VII, No. 48, January 13-19, 2008

Cuba and the Philippines have something in common: they were former colonies of Spain and later the United States.

These former colonies, however, gained their independence differently: Cuba, by armed revolution, toppled the U.S.-backed dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista on Jan. 1, 1959; while the Philippines was ‘granted’ in a silver platter its independence by the American colonizer on July 4, 1946, after World War II, and this was only after U.S. interests were incorporated in the fundamental laws of the Philippines and through their “puppet administrations.”

The two countries have adopted contrasting government systems since their independence. Cuba, through its revolutionary leaders headed by Fidel Castro, established a socialist state and continuously asserted its sovereignty even against the U.S. embargo imposed since 1959.

On the other hand, the Philippines has been a satellite of the U.S. and subservient to its neocolonial policies since 1946.

The contrasting political and economic systems of Cuba and the Philippines are manifested in their government health care system. The visit of Cuban Ambassador Jorge Rey Jimenez in Baguio City gave me the opportunity to learn more about the health care system of Cuba and try to compare their health care system to the Philippines’.

Cuban health care system

Jimenez cited the policy of Cuba as contained in the Cuban Constitution, which provides that everyone has the right to health protection and care. The State guarantees this health right by providing free medical and hospital care through the installation of a rural medical service network, polyclinics, hospitals, preventive and specialize treatment centers; by providing free dental care; by promoting health’s publicity campaign health education, regular medical examinations, general vaccinations and other measures to prevent the outbreak of diseases. All the population cooperates in these activities and plans through social and mass organizations.

This health policy of Cuba is realized through a total welfare health care system by the government where health institutions, including pharmaceutical centers, are government-owned and all health services are government-provided and -funded.

Jimenez claims that the doctor-patient ratio of Cuba in 2006 was 1:158, a great improvement from 9.2:10,000 in 1958. Today, it has 71,489 doctors and a population of more than 11 million.

The infant mortality rate of Cuba has been drastically reduced. Today it has an infant mortality rate of 5.3 per 1,000 live births. Jimenez said that Cuba has the lowest infant mortality rate in the world. In 1950, the mortality rate was 60 per 1,000 live births.

Cuba’s Granma newspaper recently reported that the infant mortality rate of 5.3 per 1,000 live births is the lowest in their history and after Canada, the second lowest in all of the Americas. Citing the 2007 UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) report, I added that the worldwide mortality rate is 52 per 1,000 live births – with 26 per 1,000 live births in Latin America, and 108:1,000 in West Africa.

Data from the World Health Organization (WHO) data confirms Cuba’s claim to an infant mortality rate of 5 deaths per 1,000 while showing that in the U.S., the infant mortality rate is 7 deaths per 1,000. It claimed that the doctor to inhabitant ratio in the US is 2.56 to 1,000 inhabitants. Cuba has the second highest doctor-to-patient ratio in the world after Italy, added the WHO report.

Jimenez explained that the base of their health care system is the Family Medical Office where 99.7 percent of their population have access to the services of family doctors (who comprise 47.4 percent of the 71,489 doctors) scattered in the whole Cuban territory. The family doctors are tasked to assist the population and ensure the four fundamental aspects of health: prevention, promotion, attention and rehabilitation of the population. One family doctor and a nurse each care for about 500 to 600 inhabitants.

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