Cuban health officials to observe, advise at UI Health’s Mile Square Health Centers

The University of Illinois 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 under a two-year, $1 million grant from the Kellogg Foundation.

The Cuban partners will embed at the University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System 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 Dr. Robert Winn, associate vice chancellor of community based practice at UI Health and director at the University of Illinois Cancer Center.

“Despite limited resources, the Cuban people have exceptionally low rates of infant mortality, even compared to developed countries, including the United States, and they also have low rates of 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.

“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 both 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. While UI Health uses community health care workers, the feeling is that more might be useful. “They also use nurse practitioners differently that 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.”

UI Health has 13 federally-qualified health centers are community clinics located in neighborhoods throughout Chicago.

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