Revolutionary Medicine

Revolutionary Medicine: Health and the Body in Post-Soviet Cuba
P Sean Brotherton
2012, Duke University Press
256 pages

WE OFTEN associate Cuba with an unusually high quality of free healthcare by virtue of its socialist system and its many programmes to provide health services to other Latin American countries, not least Venezuela. Cuban medical professionals are well known for their high level of expertise, and the country has pioneered medical solutions to a range of ailments. Such is the renown of Cuba’s public health service that in Sicko the journalist Michael Moore transported a bunch of ailing US citizens unable to access medical attention in their own, rapacious market-driven society to the Caribbean for attention that, in several cases, turned out to be transformative. But the collapse of the Soviet bloc in 1989 and the disgraceful tightening by the US of its illegal embargo of Cuba cast a dark shadow over the island’s free health service and made it much more difficult for the government to provide the high-quality, universal care that has been such an important foundation of revolutionary legitimacy. In this excellent analysis of the impact of change since 1989, Brotherton provides a rich ethnographic picture of what this has meant in practice for both medical professionals and citizens seeking treatment. The deterioration of both healthcare and social welfare programmes in Cuba as a result of the unjust siege it continues to be subjected to has led its citizens to seek healthcare solutions outside the formal ambit of the state system, with all the implications for well being that this entails. This is a thought-provoking and sensitive study that will be of major interest both to public health professionals as well as scholars. – GO’T