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Int J Health Serv. 2012;42(1):77-94.

The Cuban experience in public health: does political will have a role?

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The role of political will in public health has been largely ignored. In Cuba, however, for the past 50 years, political will has been the ultimate, encompassing intersectoral action in public health. The excellent achievements in population health in Cuba during these 50 years have been widely recognized. Researchers have sought to explain this "Cuban paradox" by focusing on a large array of public health factors, including health promotion, primary care activities, and intersectoral action on health determinants. These factors constitute necessary but not sufficient conditions to achieve good health outcomes. This article defines political will and uses the experience of Cuba to illustrate the potential role of political will in public health. The authors suggest a framework for the evaluation of political will aimed at achieving good health, examining the "Five R's of political will," five observable features that may provide systematic information on the direction and realization of political will: (1) renewal of commitment, (2) reform of the system, (3) resource development, (4) review of performance, and (5) responsible management. These five features focus the spotlight on the consistency between health goals and public discourse and action.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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