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Annual health check-ups can save many lives

By Kizito Lubano | December 30th 2015

Imagine your doctor knocking at your door to give not just you, but your whole family, an annual health check-up.

As well as taking blood pressure, checking hearts and asking all sorts of questions about your job and your lifestyle, this doctor would also taking careful note of the state of your home, assessing anything which could be affecting your family’s health.

This is what happens in Cuba and although it might not go down well everywhere, it’s a pro-active, integrated, whole-person approach to healthcare that yields good results.

The approach aims to stop people getting ill in the first place and key to this is having the annual health assessment made compulsory. As a result, in terms of having healthy people, the Cuban health service outperforms other low and medium income countries and in some cases, outperforms much richer ones too.

Despite spending a fraction of what the US spends on healthcare (the World Bank reports Cuba spends about Sh44,000 per head per year compared with about Sh876,000 in the US) Cuba has a lower infant mortality rate than the US and a similar life expectancy.

So how do they do it, and could other countries learn from the Cuban example? World Health Organisation Director General Margaret Chan certainly thinks so.

She has praised the preventative nature of the Cuban health system and called on other countries to follow suit.

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The foundation of their preventative health care model is at primary care level where family doctors oversee the health of those who live around the clinic.

To serve its population of 11 million, the country has 90,000 such doctors, that’s eight for every 1,000 citizens and many of these doctors are based in neighbourhood medical centres where alongside a nurse and support from visiting specialists, they monitor closely the health and well-being of every single Cuban.

Kenya can definitely emulate this model!

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