US and Cuba Partner in Historic Health Collaboration

HHS recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Cuba’s Public Ministry of Health on June 13, marking a historic moment for both countries since the re-establishment of diplomatic relations in 2015.

HHS recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Cuba’s Public Ministry of Health on June 13, marking a historic moment for both countries since the re-establishment of diplomatic relations in 2015. The partnership opens the door for collaborations in health between the 2 countries.

HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell and Cuba’s Minister of Public Health Dr Roberto Morales Ojeda signed the agreement, which puts into action a joint effort in the coordination of various health issues, including global health security, communicable and non-communicable disease, research and development, and information technology.

“Cuba has made significant contributions to health and science, as evidenced by their contribution to the Ebola response in West Africa and becoming the first country to eliminate mother-to-child HIV transmission,” Burwell said in a statement. “This new collaboration is a historic opportunity for two nations to build on each other’s knowledge and experience, and benefit biomedical research and public health at large.”

Both countries share a similar health profile with an aging population and the need for an increased focus on neurodegenerative and non-communicable diseases, like cancer, which is the leading cause of death in Cuba and the second in the United States. Additionally, the 2 nations share an interest in examining and responding to the emerging infectious diseases and serious mosquito-borne viral diseases, such as dengue and chikungunya.

“This is a win-win for Americans and Cubans,” said Gail Reed, executive director of Medical Education Cooperation of Cuba (MEDICC). “We’re now one step closer to a safer, healthier future for people in both countries. But, this is also just the first step. We hope President Obama will further open the door to cooperation by facilitating joint programs, research and drug development.”

MEDICC suggested in a white paper published in February that several steps can be made to take this collaboration further, which include allowing Cuban hospitals and health centers to be used in US clinical trials as well as giving Americans the opportunity to seek medical treatment in Cuba.

The signing of the MOU kicked off a 2-day visit for in the U.S. for Morales Ojeda, and HHS reported in a press release that several US delegations have already made a trip to Cuba.