Women and the Health Revolution
Society is moved to compassion upon hearing of the kidnapping or murder of one child, but it is criminally indifferent to the mass murder of so many thousands of children who die every year, in agonizing pain, due to a lack of facilities.
Fidel Castro ( 1954)1
Our health indicators are the best in Latin America, the best in the Third World, and among the best in the world.
Fidel Castro ( 1992)2
The transformation of Cuban health care is one of the principal achievements of the revolution. Medical care was made free and universal. The new health system emphasized prevention, education, community involvement, research, and the use of modern technology. As a result, the diseases that are usually found in Third World countries virtually disappeared. There were great advances also in maternal and child health services, and--at least until the late 1980s--substantial improvements in nutrition. Routine access to good-quality health care transformed the condition and future prospects of millions of Cubans and was an important source of popular support for the Castro government.
A key feature of Cuba's health revolution was the enormous growth in the number of trained health care providers. Between 1953 and 1992 the number of doctors in Cuba grew by a factor of eight to nearly 50,000, and the number of nurses increased more than fifteen times to some 70,000. 3 Women were important participants in this growth. From 1953 to 1990 women's representation among doctors rose from 6 to 48 percent and among dentists from 18 to 69 percent, and the amount of women increased from 68 to 88 percent of all nurses. 4 Tens of thousands of women volunteers augmented the services offered by professional