Last fall, experts from the Cuban Ministry of Public Health mentored American medical experts in hopes of solving infant mortality issues in the United States. Kaiser Health News reported how the Cuban health care practitioners partnered with American practitioners to study reproductive and general health issues in Chicago’s Englewood community.

While the island nation’s infant mortality rate is 4.3 per 1,000, the United States’ rate is 5.7 per 1,000, per the World Health Organization. In some especially economically vulnerable American communities, Cuba’s rate substantially bests the U.S. One example: Chicago’s Englewood community, which has a 14.5 per 1,000 rate.

“Cuba is not a rich country,” Dr. Jose Armando Arronte-Villamarin, a Cuban doctor, said. “[So] we have to develop the human resources at the primary health care level.”

The American experts studied the benefits of making more home visits, asking a broader range of questions and providing wraparound services in connection with supporting babies’ vitality.

“Sometimes it’s hard for us to face the reality that, as much as we spend, we have somehow not been successful at keeping our babies alive,” Dr. Kathy Tossas-Milligan, an epidemiologist, said.

Fifty reproductive age women answered a variety of questions for a $50 stipend, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation provided a $1 million grant that made this project possible. The foundation also paid for American health providers to visit Cuba. Globally, health care providers often visit and study in the Caribbean country.

Despite elevated international tensions, initiatives like this can remind Americans that isolationism does not profit the American people. Neither does uncritically labeling countries with different financial resources, financial systems and populations of largely Black and Brown people, primitive and “developing” worlds with nothing of value to teach. Continued research and cross-cultural collaboration benefit health practitioners and patients, both domestically and abroad.

 

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