Ending the Embargo on Affordable Health

IN OAKLAND, CALIF., schools and other nontraditional sites host health clinics that provide both primary care and preventive health services for area residents, many of whom are uninsured.

In south Los Angeles, mental health professionals have created programs based on nutrition and group exercise, along with peer-to-peer education about the transmission of HIV/AIDS. Community groups, faith-based organizations, schools, and health providers are coming together in Albuquerque, N.M., to enroll hundreds of children in Medicaid and start neighborhood walking groups—part of an effort to break down walls between health-care providers and their patients

The U.S. health-care system is known for treating advanced-stage illnesses with expensive therapies that are often not accessible to those without health insurance. So if these low-cost, preventative programs in Oakland, LA, and Albuquerque don’t sound like the typical U.S. approach to health, you’re right: These and other community-based efforts trace their inspiration to the remarkably successful health system built by the nation of Cuba.

That inspiration, and the U.S. initiatives that have followed, have been nurtured by the California-based nonprofit Medical Education Cooperation with Cuba, known as MEDICC. Through guided trips to directly observe Cuba’s health system, MEDICC aims to help those working in underserved communities in the U.S. learn about the Cuban model, where quite limited health-care expenditures in a decidedly low-income population manage to provide universal care and health outcomes that rival those in the U.S.

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July 2015
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Alan Gross Release Hailed as Hanukkah ‘Miracle,’ First Step in ‘Normalized’ U.S.-Cuba Relations

Photo viaTerry Straehley via Flickr / RNS

A view to the west over the ocean and the once-posh suburb of Vedado in Havana, Cuba. Photo viaTerry Straehley via Flickr / RNS

Alan Gross, the Jewish international aid worker held on alleged spy charges in Cuba for five years, was freed on Dec. 17 — what some are calling a Hanukkah miracle on the first day of the holiday that celebrates religious freedom.

Gross, 65, of Maryland, has always claimed that he only went to Cuba to bring communications equipment to the small Jewish community left in Havana. However, the Castro government said he was part of a spy network attempting to set up a secret network for Cuban Jews. Gross was serving a 15-year sentence.

President Obama chose the Dec. 17 release as a springboard to announce a massive historic “normalization” of U.S.-Cuba relations. Meantime, in Cuba, President Raul Castro, who held a press conference in Havana at noon, was expected to release 53 Cuban political prisoners.

Obama particularly credited the “moral example of Pope Francis,” who actively encouraged Gross’ release. Francis, who held private meetings at the Vatican to secure the deal, praised the move, sending “his warm congratulations for the historic decision taken by the Governments of the United States of America and Cuba to establish diplomatic relations, with the aim of overcoming, in the interest of the citizens of both countries, the difficulties which have marked their recent history.”

Pope Benedict XVI in Cuba: A Media Round-up


Pope Benedict XVI with Cuban President Raul Castro in Havana on Tuesday. ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images

Pope Benedict XVI’s 3-day visit to Cuba began Monday, when President Raul Castro greeted the pontiff at the airport of Santiago de Cuba. The arrival was fairly quiet, but the evening Mass in Santiago’s plaza was attended by an estimated 200,000 Cubans. The pope's long-awaited visit attracted news coverage from around the world, mostly focusing in the pope’s message.