|Cuba's 2011 infant mortality rate is lowest in Americas|
For the last four years Cuba has achieved an infant mortality rate of below 5.0 per 1,000 live births, the lowest in the Americas together with Canada – sustained by the revolutionary government’s health policies which guarantee equality of access to medical services for mothers and children.
Social justice is unmistakably revealed on observing the status of this indicator in the country’s 15 provinces and the special municipality of the Isle of Youth. None of those recording a result higher than the national average of 4.9 are not in excess of 7.9.
The United States, which has maintained its criminal economic blockade of the country for more than 50 years, records an infant mortality rate of 7.0 although, taking into account the humiliating inequalities between rich and poor, rates in areas inhabited by the most dispossessed are, on average, 2.5 times higher. Approximately seven million U.S. children lack any health coverage.
As is known, the infant mortality rate, which measures the risk of death during the first year of life – the most critical for human beings’ survival – is an expression of the quality with which a country treats and protects mothers and children, their health, their material security, education and socialization. Thus it is an international demographic indicator which demonstrates these advances in a synthetic way.
According to preliminary data given to Granma January 1 by the Ministry of Public Health Statistics Office, in 2011 there were 133,063 births, 5,317 more than in 2010.
Seven provinces achieved rates of below 4.0. These are Las Tunas (3.5), Artemisa (3.9), Pinar del Río (4.0), Holguín (4.0), Havana (4.3), Ciego de Ávila (4.4) and Granma (4.4). Of the country’s 168 municipalities, 17 have zero infant mortality.
When experts are consulted every year as to how Cuba makes these favorable infant mortality rates possible, responses are usually in a similar vein: political will and determination, a highly educated population, an all-encompassing vaccination program with a virtually 100% coverage of children, and a universal health system, accessible and free of charge, which is currently restoring the initial concept of the Family Doctor and Nurse Program in order to attain a more efficient and sustainable health system.
All that is complemented by highly qualified health workers, with their proverbial human dedication and solidarity.
The multifaceted care given to pregnant women in Cuba is known. For the significance that means for the security and happiness of Cuban families, it is worth recalling national genetic services in the area of public health.
A genetic risk study is made in the early stages of pregnancy; followed by a hemoglobin electrophoresis to identify carriers of sickle cell anemia and, if the mother is a carrier, the father is given the test and if they both are, the baby is checked at birth to diagnose whether s/he is healthy, a carrier or sick.
Genetic ultrasounds are made in the first and second trimesters of pregnancy, plus an alpha-fetoprotein study to identify possible central nervous system defects. In the case of pregnant woman aged over 37, at greatest risk of having a Downs Syndrome baby, they are given the option of prenatal screening.
Specialists with the Maternal-Infant Attention Program affirm that even greater security for women and their offspring can be achieved, and have called on women of reproductive age to establish adequate family planning which includes previous investigations, in order to ensure their good health during pregnancy and to minimize risks.
Family doctors provide these services and a follow up on disorders related to pre-conception risks. Within the program, women are asked to consult a doctor at least six months before planning a wanted pregnancy. Risks of this nature are basically related to malnutrition, anemia, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, hypothyroidism, and infections of the uterus, urinary tract and respiratory system (asthma).
A continued reduction in the infant mortality rate as an expression of human development requires both the efforts of the national public health system and greater individual and social commitment to adopting measures leading to responsible pregnancies.
17 MUNCIPALITIES WITH ZERO INFANT MORTALITY, 2011
PROVINCES MUNICIPALITIES PROVINCES MUNICIPALITIES
Pinar del Río Viñales Cienfuegos Palmira
Artemisa Mariel Rodas
Guanajay Ciego Ávila Bolivia
Mayabeque Melena del Sur Majagua
Matanzas Perico Camagüey Najasa
Pedro Betancourt Holguín Cueto
Los Arabos Granma Buey Arriba
Villa Clara Quemados Guantánamo Caimanera
Source: MINSAP National Statistics Office.