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Context of '1977: Cuba Establishes Rules for Prenatal and Infant Care'

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Cuba’s Ministry of Public Health establishes rules and standards on health care for women, infants, and young children. The rules make infant health and the reproductive health of women the country’s top health priorities. The ministry’s rules specify the minimum number of prenatal examinations and consultations for pregnant women and require that all pregnant women receive education on hygiene, health during pregnancy, childbirth, and child care. They are also to receive psychological counseling and instruction in birth exercises. When women miss appointments or educational lectures, doctors are instructed to go to their homes. Additionally, the ministry’s rules state that all childbirth must take place in hospitals, where women and their new babies will typically stay for four or five days. By the mid-1980s, prenatal care provided to Cuban women will far exceed the medical norms of most industrialized countries. (Feinsilver 1993, pp. 48-49) The ministry also issues specifications for the care of infants and children, requiring that doctors conduct a certain number of check-ups every year. By 1989, the average number of well-baby visits per year will be 11. (Feinsilver 1993, pp. 53) Author Julie Feinsilver notes that Cuba’s commitment to prenatal and infant care is cost-effective in the long-term. “These children experience less illness, require less curative medical care, and possess greater potential for development and educational achievement, which lead to greater work capacity and higher productivity.” (Feinsilver 1993, pp. 51)

Cuba’s public health ministry launches an education campaign promoting physical fitness as part of an effort to combat negative health conditions associated with sedentary lifestyles. (Feinsilver 1993, pp. 71)

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) representative in Cuba states that “there is no question that Cuba has the best health statistics in Latin America.” (Chomsky 1993, pp. 151)

Sergio Diaz-Briquets, in his book The Health Revolution in Cuba, concludes that universal health care access, along with the narrowing of the gap between mortality rates in urban and rural populations “appears to be the main causative factor behind Cuba’s impressive gain in life expectancy.” (Diaz-Briquets 1983, pp. 113; Feinsilver 1993, pp. 92)

UNICEF publishes a report on the “State of the World’s Children,” which concludes that “Cuba is the only [Latin American] country on a par with developed nations” with regard to infant mortality rates. (Chomsky 1993)


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