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Primary Healthcare in Cuba (a book and more)

By Paul Ryer, Health, new book Add comments

Somehow, despite the relatively small community of anthropologists working on some aspect of contemporary Cuba, this book has not received proper recognition.  Whether this was a subfield-derived oversight, a question of timing or some other factor, Primary Health Care in Cuba: The Other Revolution, by Linda Whiteford and Laurence Branch, Rowman & Littlefield 2008, is now available on paperback.   With only 117 pages of text, the book provides a succinct overview of the Cuban health system from a critical medical anthropology perspective.  Although clearly not as ethnographically rich as the work of P. Sean Brotherton and other specialists, and although a number of topics (such as the Cuban response to HIV/AIDS, or to the public health elements of state responses to “natural” disasters) are not given the space they deserve, this book would be accessible for an undergraduate course or course segment on contemporary Cuba and its distinctive health system.  While it is appropriately academic rather than polemic, the text paints an image of the Cuban health system sharply more positive than Katherine Hirschfeld’s, and it is not surprising that Hirschfeld’s review–like her book, presented as ethnographically authoritative–is scathing in its critique of the book’s lack of political critique.  Controversially–and to my mind in a rather tacked-on manner, given the scope of the volume–she also points to the authors’ omission of political dissidence as a major gap in their overview of a health care system.

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