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Cuban Health Officials to Observe, Advise at Mile Square Health Center

Monday, May 16, 2016

The UI Health Cancer Center will bring physicians from Cuba and the Cuban Ministry of Health to Chicago to evaluate women and children’s health and cancer prevention programs at two community-based clinics with a two-year, $1 million grant from the Kellogg Foundation.

The Cuban partners will embed at Mile Square Health Centers in Englewood and Back of the Yards, bringing their expertise on delivering preventive health and improving the health of patients living in high-poverty, underserved communities.

“The Cuban health system does preventive health very, very well, and they do it without a lot of money,” said Robert Winn, associate vice chancellor of community-based practice at UI Health and director at the UI Health Cancer Center.

Cuba has low rates of infant mortality and cervical cancer, Winn said.

“Cervical cancer rates in many of the neighborhoods we serve are extremely high, even though we have resources like the HPV vaccine to help lower cervical cancer rates to near zero,” Winn said. “Perhaps our Cuban counterparts have a different way of approaching their patients that improves uptake of preventive efforts, such as an innovative way of providing education.”

After a few preliminary meetings in Chicago and Cuba, the Cuban team of physicians and health officials will spend 18 months at the Englewood and Back of the Yards clinics observing and advising.

Afterwards, Cuban and Mile Square practitioners will work with a community steering committee including partners from the March of Dimes, the UIC College of Nursing and School of Public Health to develop a master plan based on suggestions and observations generated during the Cuban team’s visit.

“Not only will they look at how the clinics operate to deliver health care and preventive medicine, but we also hope they will be able to make connections with the community and its civic leaders to attain a holistic picture of how the built and political environment plays into the health of local residents,” Winn said.

Cubans rely heavily on community health care workers, Winn explained. “They also use nurse practitioners differently than we do,” said Winn.

“We want their perspective on our use of resources, because they may have a different way of doing things that we can implement to start moving our needle a little faster on cancer and women and children’s health.”