You have done a tremendous job in the healthcare field

José A. de la Osa TOUCHING down in Cuba for the very first time, Margaret Chan – director general of the World Health Organization – said that it was a great pleasure for her to visit this country, small but of tremendous significance for the WHO, “so that we may observe and learn about the excellent efforts underway in the Cuban healthcare system.” “I want to see the work being carried out with respect to primary care and the communities, equality and universal access to medical care which are issues of great interest for our organization,” she added, noting that she was hoping to have “great experiences” during her visits to medical care and research centers. Her presence here is also a great pleasure for us, stated Minister José Ramón Balaguer during the reception, adding that “we admire and respect her work and the ideas she has about worldwide public health.” During a recent speech in Denmark, Dr. Chan – a graduate in Medicine from the University of Western Ontario (Canada) – highlighted, as Cuba has also been able to demonstrate, that market forces alone will not be able to resolve social problems. A value system is fundamental for the world to continue. On the contrary, a situation that is already in danger in terms of vast unbalances, in terms of income, opportunities and health, can only get worse. Referring to the “busy working agenda” prepared for her visit, she cheerfully commented that “I would be unsatisfied if they had not prepared such an intense agenda, because I know that Cuba has done a tremendous job in the field of healthcare.” Asked by Granma about the Influenza A (H1N1) virus, she said that it is the first virus of this kind to affect us this century because the most recent outbreak prior to this occurred some four decades ago. She stated that at the current time, 195 countries have reported cases to the WHO and that it is a “virus of extremes” because, on the one hand, there are mild cases developing which do not require medicines to be prescribed, and another small percentage of cases where patients rapidly develop severe symptoms. According to international experience, she mentioned that among those who may suffer more serious complications (pneumonia, for example) are pregnant women, children under two years of age, and those that suffer from chronic heart problems or asthma. In the face of this pandemic, we cannot ignore or brush aside the danger to individuals. The A (H1N1) virus can kill. The WHO is asking governments to create “a package of measures” in order to confront this pandemic, with an emphasis on prevention, attention, medicines and vaccination. “I believe that the Cuban government is carrying out positive work and for that, I am very grateful,” she concluded. Dr. Chan – who was appointed director general of the WHO in November 2006 – was accompanied on her trip this weekend by Dr. Mirta Roses, director of the Pan-American Health Organization, and the two women will remain in Cuba until Wednesday. Translated by Granma International

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