The students travelled to Cuba to discover how the country’s health outcomes are among the best in the world, despite operating on a much lower budget.

Medicine students visit Cuba for insight into international health delivery

Medicine students at the University of Exeter Medical School have travelled to Cuba to get an insight into how the country delivers high quality healthcare on a tight budget.

The Year 3 students, based at the Medical School’s Exeter and Truro campuses, travelled to the Caribbean island to discover how the Communist country’s health outcomes are among the best in the world, despite operating on a much lower budget. The trip also involved students from the University of South Florida.

Dr Nicki Saulsbury, Academic Director of International Education at the University of Exeter Medical School, said: “All healthcare is free in Cuba, and their system is globally recognised as excellent, even though it operates on a much lower spend than the NHS. There’s a real focus on prevention – on keeping people healthy and focussing on the person as a whole, rather than an approach which treats individual illnesses as they arise. Although we don’t operate to that system in the UK, there are lessons to be learned that can be applied to clinical practice worldwide.”

Over the two week visit, the group visited a range of health facilities including hospitals and “polyclinics”, and met American Medicine students. It meant they gained an insight into the contrasts between the Cuban health system where care is free for all, and the privatised American system where people receive different standards of care depending on how much they can afford to pay.

Megan Davis, from Truro in Cornwall, said: "I was amazed on the visit to the Latin American School of Medicine. Cuba trains 20,000 students from 110 countries for free from the poorest communities throughout the world, with the intent of returning to practice medicine in those areas in their countries. Their selfless approach to providing aid to the most disadvantaged is commendable. It has really shaped my outlook on providing healthcare in the future.”

Annabel Callan, from Lustleigh on Dartmoor, Devon, said: “It was really interesting to compare and contrast healthcare services and infrastructure in the UK and Cuba. Both are state-financed but with very differing models, and we were able to see how that is incorporated into both urban and rural environments. It was a fascinating insight into how the Cuban system works so effectively, despite their lower budget and poorer economy. There are certainly aspects of their preventative-focused and family-orientated approach that I will carry forward into my own future practice.”

Also on the trip were students Billy Caufield, Sam Gallagher, Sara Khalid, Susannah Kingsbury, Lily McDougall, Ross Moore, John Outlaw and Dominic Proctor.

Date: 3 April 2017

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