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'Tell Me About' Public Lecture Series 2017-2018


Date: Thursday 26 October 2017 5.15pm-6.15pm

Venue: Lecture Theatre 2.57, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Trinity College Dublin, 24 D’Olier Street, Dublin 2

Title: The Cuban Health System: our legacy from Che Guevara and Fidel Castro

Speaker: Dr Una Lynch, Sonrisa Solutions Limited

On January 1st 1959 a young lawyer (Fidel Castro) and doctor (Ernesto Che Guevara) entered government in Cuba and laid the foundations for a system of governance that has continued unabated to the present day. The creation of a health system ‘For All’ was central to the vision of the fledgling ‘revolutionary’ government in 1959. October 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of Che’s death in the Bolivian mountains and November 2017 the first anniversary of Fidel’s death.

This lecture reflects on their legacy by analysing the evolution, development and emergence of the Cuban health system as a world renowned model of excellence. It will highlight the strong parallels with the development of the NHS and use comparative statistics to illuminate the fact that excellent health outcomes are effective use of resources.

“Cuba provides solid evidence that factors other than national wealth can produce health outcomes that rival that in the richest nations.” (Dr Margaret Chan, Director General World Health Organisation, 2009)

Cuba is currently spending about $1,800 person on health; spending in Ireland is around $3,800 and our neighbours in the USA spend over $9,000. Nevertheless all three countries have very comparable health indicators including life expectancy and infant mortality rates.

Dr Una Lynch is midwife and public health nurse. She has worked in academia, practice and policy across the island of Ireland, Latin America, Africa and with the WHO in Copenhagen. Her primary areas of interest are ageing with dignity across the life course. She has led a number of EU and international research projects including a systematic review of social accountability and inclusive service delivery for Australia Aid. Her interest in Che Guevara started in the 1990s when she worked for two years as a volunteer in Bolivia with a Jesuit run radio station. The quest for learning about the Cuban health system started a few later during her MSc in Community Health at Trinity College Dublin. Her doctoral thesis “Public Health: why are the Cubans so successful?” was completed in 2007 and for the last ten years her work with Cuba has focused primarily on healthy ageing.

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