In the summer of 2012, the Pan American Health Organization and Cuban health authorities reported more than 700 cases of cholera, an infection of the small intestine caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae.
The outbreak was traced to two food distribution centres, where since then, corrective measures were taken to combat the disease. Since then, public health in Cuba — both in infrastructure and medical practice — has become a common topic of discussion.
This ongoing discussion lead Jorge Duany, director of the Cuban Research Institute and professor of anthropology in the Department of Global and Sociocultural Studies in the School of International and Public Affairs, to host an event titled “The Public Health of Cubans and Cuban Americans: A Symposium.”
Duany says cholera outbreak showed health providers — both abroad and Cuban — that the public health system was deficient in areas.
“How was it possible for Cuba to go back to an early period of time,” said Duany in reference to an infection thought to be manageable since the late 19th century. “Cholera is something directly related to the infrastructure and the drinking water. That clearly reflects the fact that those two areas have deteriorated over time.”
“We just want to survey the needs of Cubans — Cuban Americans,” Duany said, pointing out that the forum will discuss “basic issues such as healthcare delivery, mental health, HIV prevention,” but that the issues of discussion will largely be up to the participating medical experts.
“One of the issues that will be discussed at length will be aging,” Duany said. “The issue of aging I think is something that characterizes both the Cuban population here in Miami, and the Cuban population in Cuba, and that brings some kind of new challenges for health providers.”
“The Cuban population has actually been decreasing over the last 10 years or so. For the first time, the Census registered fewer people living in Cuba than before,” said Duany, attributing this to the high life expectancy of the Cuban population and the high percentage of individuals who are over 65 years old.
“Cuba has one of the largest percentage of people, senior citizens, in the hemisphere,” he said, clarifying that the proportion is similar to that of the US. “When you have a very significant population that is over 65, then you have to consider, you know, how best to deliver medical services.”
Other issues Duany cited included economic issues and what he calls the “export of medical services” to Venezuela.
According to its flyer, the symposium will “bring together leading FIU experts in health-related fields.” Some participants include Pedro Greer from the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine and Lourdes Martin from the Robert Stempel College of Public Health and Social Work.
Duany referred to the CRI event as an “attempt to bring together different experts to bring a conversation” on Cuban health issues, research, and solutions.
The first panel, according to Duany, will be about Cubans. Afterwards, a second panel will be held to discuss health issues of Cuban Americans.
Both the Wertheim College of Medicine and the Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work were cosponsors of the event, along with the Latin American and Caribbean Center, and the Center for Research on U.S. Latino HIV/AIDS and Drug Abuse.
The symposium will be held on April 17 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. It is free and open to the public.