Cuban infant mortality rate: 4.8!!

THE risks involved per se in pregnancy and birth were compounded last year by another threat: the appearance of the new AH1N1 flu virus which, during its eight months of attack, has demonstrated particular aggressiveness toward pregnant women and children.

Despite that, in all justice it must be said that in Cuba that a systematic medical screening of all pregnant women, totally supported by the political will of the revolutionary leadership, has meant that 2009 concluded with an infant mortality rate of 4.8 per 1,000 live births, similar to that of 2008 (4.7), the lowest in our history.

This international indicator measures the synthetic quality with which any society cares for and protects its children, their health and their well-being.

It was not by chance that last October, during a visit to the island, that Margaret Chan, director general of the WHO, said that her time on the island was very important to the WHO in terms of seeing and learning about the excellent efforts being made by the Cuban health system, the work that it is developing in primary and community care, and its universal equality of access to medical attention.

It is precisely these principles of accessibility, gratuity and universality of care that facilitates medical consultations for every citizen. And given the pandemic situation generated by the AH1N1 flu virus, and the particular vulnerability of pregnant women, those who have recently given birth (up to 42 days), and children up to 12 months – or of any age with chronic disorders – an active screening process for this high-risk group began last September, including daily home visits by local polyclinic personnel & other sectors of society, in order to help families in the early detection of respiratory symptoms.

When flu symptoms in pregnant women are diagnosed, hospital admittance is prescribed and antiviral treatment begins within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms. Similar measures are taken with children of any age with chronic illnesses such as asthma, diabetes and motor-neuronal disorders. Minors without associated biological risks are kept at home.

During the four months of screening 13,380 pregnant women and 841 in the postnatal stage were admitted to hospital, for a total of 14,221 women. All of them received antiviral treatment. Approximately 75,000 babies under 12 months have also received this treatment. At the close of 2009, there were 63,726 pregnant women and 16, 227 who had recently given birth.

These unprecedented health actions have contributed to saving many human lives and are an expression of the principles guiding our socialist society, given that, for the revolutionary government, health is a primary human right.

Translated by Granma International

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