Cuba Is One Of Five Healthiest Countries in the World

“Healthy countries” is not the most popular information subject for mass media. Newspapers usually write about viruses, diseases or epidemics threatening the whole region at once. The American magazine “Foreign Policy” has published the rating of the five healthiest countries and explained its choice.


On the whole, the Japanese live longer than representatives of other nations – their average lifetime makes up 86 years. The secret of the Japanese health consists in bodily exercise and food products with a low content of cholesterol. The Japanese diet includes fish, rice and sea-weed which lower the risk of heart diseases and cancer.

Fitness clubs have come in fashion in Japan. Sound health of several generations of this nation is maintained and improved due to a special state program which provides exercising before and during the workday. This program is financed by the Government.

The biggest Japanese mobile operator already offers “Fitness Phone”, a service of measuring daily physical exercise, to lovers of the advanced technologies.

Nowadays, population health is threatened by the “western” food with its traditionally high content of fat: 7 million of the Japanese are suffering from diabetes, which spreads in Asia quicker that in other parts of the world.


France has the lowest rate of heart diseases which are considered the main reason of mortality. Specialists explain this fact by slow eating and daily consumption of a glass of wine. The French cuisine is traditionally rich in fats and carbohydrates, but it is eaten slowly, a little at a time and washed down with a moderate amount of wine.

It is worth mentioning that in 2002 the World Health Organization declared France the healthiest country of the European Union. Despite the fact that many of the French die of cancer and other severe diseases, the average lifetime in France makes up 75 years for men and 83 years for women, and goes on increasing.

Nowadays, obesity is declared a major problem, and a high rate of mortality caused by cancer and cardiovascular diseases is registered in France. The leadership of this country concerning the low rate of cardiovascular diseases is running the risk of becoming a negative leadership.


Iceland has the lowest child mortality rate and the best antenatal care in the world. Figures speak for themselves: 2 deaths of children under five per one thousand of newborns. In the USA this rate makes up 7 children.

The Icelandic Government pays for a wide range of services of mother and child medical care. Besides, it assures maintenance of 80 per cent of the mother’s salary during three months.

However, nowadays the Icelandic population also suffers from obesity. The country annually consumes an enormous amount of sugar per capita, mainly due to an exaggerated passion for carbonated beverages.


Sweden may boast of the highest probability of survival in case of a cancer disease, as well as of an almost 100% rate of child immunization.

Almost 14% of the state expenses go to healthcare and make up 85% of expenses on medical care. Besides, the 9-million population is served in modern hospitals and clinics equipped with the latest medical equipment.

The Swedes believe that a comprehensive social assistance which provides everything from professional development support to street illumination lowers the population sickness rate.

There still is a problem of queuing: the Swedes have to wait for reception and operations. The attempts to transfer small medical institutions to private ownership do not result in any evident progress.


The island of freedom may rightly be proud of a low child mortality rate and a medium lifetime. The rate of six doctors per one thousand of Cubans is the highest rate in the world.

According to the experts, a big number of doctors cannot guarantee the population health, however, in Cuba it contributes to efficiency of measures on disease prevention. Thousands of Cuban doctors annually go abroad on study tours. Due to professionalism and the state support of healthcare Cuba achieves results even Europe may be envious of.

On the other hand, the focus on prevention and early diagnosis leads to the lack of drugs in the country. Besides, it is expected that openness of the Cuban society and increase in purchasing capacity of big layers of population shall stimulate the “import” of European and American diseases connected with dieting and food.

It is also worth mentioning that according to the Public Organization “March of Dimes” the healthiest countries from the genetic point of view are France, Austria, Australia, Switzerland and Russia.

8 million children with severe genetic defects are born every year. It makes up 6% of the total number of newborns. The number of newborns with severe genetic effects in the most developed countries makes up from 397 to 425 per 10.000 children.

The Russian rate makes up 429 per 10.000 newborns. The USA with its rate of 478 per 10.000 children occupies the 20th place, right after Cuba. The list is enclosed by Benin, Saudi Arabia and Sudan (from 779 to 820 per 10.000 newborns respectively). Among the post-Soviet countries the worst indicators are registered in Tajikistan (752), Kyrgyzstan (735) and Azerbaijan (631).

We should remember that our health is influenced not only by environment, the level of medical and genetic consulting and the healthcare level on the whole. A great deal depends on every one of us: his/her culture, education and lifestyle.



In Cuba’s Academic Advantage, Martin Carnoy analyses the success of the Cuban school system as measured by the results achieved by Cuban students in international math, science, and language tests. The study includes data from Chile and Brazil whose students consistently test less well than Cuban students on these same tests despite the fact that these two countries enjoy better socio-economic indicators than does Cuba and educational reform efforts have been undertaken by their respective governments. He references studies, the results of which are well known by researchers, which demonstrate that academic success among socially disadvantaged students is far less likely than for students from better-off families (p. 45). Why does this co-relation not hold true for Cuba? Carnoy argues that an important component of student success in Cuba, including students from lower socio-economic circumstances, is the result of what he terms state-generated social capital.

A Medical Student Looks at Cuba A Country of Contradictions

Fresh off the plane, and already my interest was piqued as we drove out of the airport in Havana. I had just finished my first year at Harvard Medical School, and was in Cuba with a group of students on a medical education program. I was intrigued by the Cubans who drove us that night to our destination in the western province of Pinar del Rio. To begin with, they all had names I had never heard of, as Spanish names: Ivan, Mariushka, Marleni (short for Marx Lenin)-they were all Russian names! Furthermore, both the van driver and his wife, who was along for the ride, spoke not only Spanish but also relatively good English, and they told me they had both been trained as engineers. I remember feeling puzzled to meet an engineer working as a hired driver, and this was only the first of many paradoxes I would find on this beautiful island. Indeed, if I can say one thing about Cuba after my month-long stay, it is that Cuba is a country of contradictions.

One of the most moving experiences of my life came a few days into my work with Sofí­a, the community doctor with whom I saw patients. Sofí­a and her husband, who have two small children, are both physicians. Sofí­a’s consultorio(medical office) occupies the first floor of her family home (all community doctors live in a similar setting). After six years of medical school and three years of service to the government as community physicians, Sofí­a and her husband each earn twenty dollars per month. Their house belongs to the government, their education and their children’s (including their textbooks!), as well as their health care, are absolutely free, and they get food rations from the government. As a family, they receive six pounds of sugar, eggs, rice, beans, milk, and one small bar of soap per month. They say that they are happy with their home, proud of their education and their health care system, but what they get to eat is not enough. If they want meat (or laundry detergent, or clothes) they have to purchase them at import prices similar to those we pay here in the United States. Forty dollars a month does not stretch very far for all of these things. As well educated as they are, this family cannot afford the luxury of toilet paper, and uses the day-old newspaper instead.

A few days after my arrival, Sofí­a invited me over for lunch, and although I was practically a stranger in their modest home, they treated me to a royal feast. They made a delicious stew, with beef; they bought pizza, and made batidos de mango (mango shakes) with fresh milk. I was overwhelmed by their generosity, and at the same time plagued with guilt as I sat consuming what was at least half their monthly salaries. This was my first heart-warming encounter with the Cuban spirit of brotherhood, and there would be many more: I discovered that Cubans have a gift for making people feel welcome and included. It still brings tears to my eyes to think that with so little, they offered me so much.

Cuban nature is open and inviting, generous and warm. And yet these very people have laws that prohibit them from visiting the establishments of their compatriots. When a group of us wanted to travel for a weekend to the lush park of Vií±ales with a Cuban medical student we befriended, we were stunned by the obstacles we encountered. Our driver, with his baby blue 1961 Chevy, and in desperate need of the few dollars we offered, could not bring our friend Miguel, because if he were stopped by the police with Cubans and Americans in his car, he would be fined a large sum. So Miguel rode the 20 miles on his old Russian bike. Moreover, most Cubans cannot eat out in restaurants or rent accommodations when they travel in part because they cannot afford it. But even if we wanted to pay for our friend, by law he is not allowed to eat, or even sit at the table, with tourists, and he is not allowed to sleep in the Cuban homes where we rented rooms. I could see in the eyes of the proprietors how deeply they regretted having to turn a fellow Cuban away, but if “el Inspector” (a neighborhood Party representative) discovered Miguel at a restaurant or in a rented room, they would be subject to hundreds of dollars in fines. Although the laws have been made under the pretext of preventing hustling and prostitution, I wondered if the hidden agenda was to prevent the exchange of ideas?

I am originally from Argentina, and in Argentina we know about political repression and persecution. We had totalitarian regimes, military coups, and even concentration camps until the 1980’s. My family fled when I was two because as Jewish doctors my parents were under threat. But in my simple scheme of right and wrong, it is easy to categorize what happened there. Universities and schools fell to pieces. People were tortured and murdered for their beliefs, or even for the sin of being listed in the address book of someone suspected of anti-government activism.

In contrast, I struggle with an image of Cuba where people are not free to tell their friends what they think, where people go hungry, where well educated, honest folk turn to illegal tourist activities because it is the only way to earn enough to clothe their children, and yet where every person has a home, every person is taught to read, is given some food, and has their medical needs met. Indeed, in Cuba, everyone has access to health care and there is one doctor in every neighborhood. Physicians are trained to emphasize prevention; their job includes visiting patients at home, and ensuring public health standards are met. For example, they verify that if animals are kept they are clean and separate, or that electrical outlets are covered if there are young children in the home. The infant mortality rate is one of the lowest in the world; Cuban children are vaccinated, and all women have access to regular Pap smears and mammograms.

My trip to Cuba made me appreciate the luxuries available to me in my daily life. It gave me a taste of what it was like for my parents to live under a totalitarian regime. In many ways I came to understand those who risk their lives every day to flee Cuba. Yet at the same time I was left in awe of their warm generosity, revolutionary idealism, and contagious cultural rhythm. I was moved by their commitment to provide housing and health care for all of its citizens, a principle that has not been adequately embraced in the United States, where homelessness is pervasive and there are more than 40 million people without health insurance. Cuba, for all its contradictions, has valuable lessons to teach even a rich and democratic country like our own.