Dr. Carlotta Willis, professor and director of clinical mental health counseling at AUNE, and her husband, Dr. Jonathan Klate, visited Cuba recently as part of a group of physicians learning about Cuba’s health care system. Willis said they were especially interested in how a poor country can manage to provide free health care to its citizens throughout their lives.
The group traveled in and around La Habana for about a week, meeting with physicians who practiced orthodox and alternative medicine and touring hospitals and local clinics. Willis also visited several mental health care facilities.
She found the level of services to be comprehensive and available, despite shortages of medicine and technology. Every citizen is entitled to at least one annual checkup, with more visits if there are health problems.
“The people on the street were delighted to have American doctors and professionals visiting and spoke with us freely about the pluses and minuses of the health care system,” according to Willis. “Health care is seen as a right, not a privilege, along with education.”
Mental health care is integrated into the practice of general medicine, Willis said. Specialists are available on referral and in mental health clinics where, for example, alcoholism is treated. Polyclinics, or outpatient clinics, offer a wide range of services including social workers, psychologists, and rehabilitation facilities.
Willis also had a lively discussion with Psicoballet, the dance therapy practitioners of Cuba, and exchanged materials and books.