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Kidney Int Suppl. 2005 Sep;(98):S66-8.

Strategies for national health care systems and centers in the emerging world: Central America and the Caribbean--the case of Cuba.

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Epidemiology Department, Institute of Nephrology, Havana, Cuba.


Over 40% of the 76 million people in Central America and the Caribbean live in poverty with no safety net. Communicable and noncommunicable diseases significantly impact morbidity and mortality, and a tendency toward aging suggests increasing prevalence of chronic conditions. Among factors related to renal diseases: obesity is an epidemic among the near-poor; prevalence of diabetes mellitus is 6% to 8%; and hypertension is 8% to 30%. The region's racial-ethnic composition--associated with depressed socioeconomic conditions--is comparable to US minorities showing greater chronic renal disease (CRD) rates than those registered in Central America and the Caribbean, which suggests that this region may be among the world's most seriously affected by CRD. This is a reality masked by lack of health care coverage. Health policies generally have not prioritized human resource development, and training is biased toward curative care instead of prevention. Nephrologists are less than 20 per million population in most countries. Health care infrastructures are poor, lacking the primary care facilities charged with prevention. Cuba shares economic limitations with its neighbors but is one of the region's least socially stratified countries, with a universal, free, and public health care system emphasizing primary health care and prevention. Human resource development has resulted in 59.6 physicians per 10,000 inhabitants and a family physician program covering the whole population. A national renal diseases program incorporates preventive strategies at all care levels. Nevertheless, early detection of patients with CRD remains a challenge in the Cuban context. In Central America and the Caribbean, prevention is the key to reducing medical, social, and economic costs of renal disease.

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