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.
A recent grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is supporting expansion of the program. “Cuba has not reinvented the wheel when it comes to health care, but they approach the challenge in a way that we can learn so much from,” says Diane Applebaum, a family nurse practitioner who directs MEDICC’s U.S.-Cuba Community Partnerships for Health Equity program.
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