Social Affairs, Science And Technology Sub Committee On Population Health Fact Finding Trip to Cuba

Honourable senators, I would like to speak about the work of the Population Health Subcommittee of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology.  As you know, we traveled to Cubain January to see firsthand what this tiny country is doing for maternal health and early childhood development.


C’était un voyage qui a complété le travail de ce comité qui a entendu des témoignages de plusieurs experts au cours des derniers mois.


As Senator Keon stated when he tabled our report, Cuba is extraordinary in that it is a poor country with excellent health indicators.


We know that poverty and health are linked, butCuba seems determined to prove, that at least at a national level, it ain’t necessarily so.


Cuba shows that poor economic indicators do not have to condemn a population to poor health.  Working smart across disciplines, preventing illnesses, promoting health — all the stuff we know as the nuts of bolts of population health — is more than just words in Cuba.  It’s more than just policy.  It’s a way of life.



Ceci est important pour le Canada parce que nous passons beaucoup de temps à parler des déterminants de la santé, à parler de la nécessité de travailler de concert pour promouvoir la santé, à parler de la prévention des maladies. Mais nous n’avons pas eu la réussite autant espérée.


When the notion of national programs to improve population health in Canada are put forward – for example, national child care, pharmacare, homecare, or even a national strategy for autism – people will often talk about how expensive these programs would be. We use this argument as an excuse for inaction.


Our trip to Cuba demonstrated how ridiculous this type of response is.


Here in Canada we have a robust economy. We’ve gone 17 years without a recession.  We have the 8th largest economy of the world’s 183 nations.  We are the only country to rack up 10 back-to-back fiscal surpluses.  Economic indicators tell us we are rich.  Yet child poverty rates remain stagnant.  We have the same rates of child poverty as we had in 1989.


So it was so interesting to go to Cuba, a country with one of the worst economies in our hemisphere, yet with some of the best indicators for child health.


L’UNESCO affirme que le Cuba a un des meilleurs taux de mortalité infantile dans les Amériques, deuxième après le Canada et bien en avant des États-Unis.


We learned a lot on this trip.  We learned about the effectiveness of neighbourhood action – the polyclinics Senator Keon referred to.  It’s at the neighbourhood level that health promotion and disease prevention efforts are at work.  And the results are clear:  there are healthier mothers and children, better parenting, universal early childhood education, and care for disabled children, including children with autism.  The school I visited for autistic children in Cubawould put Canada to shame.


J’encourage mes honorables collègues à lire le rapport du comité que le Sénator Keon a déposé.  Il y a beaucoup à apprendre dans ce document.


The bottom line is that you don’t need a lot of money to effectively help children and ensure they get a good start in life.  We learned inCuba that when there is a will there’s a way.


That’s what Canada needs.  The will to do more for children.  With political will we would find a way to make Canada’s children healthier and better able to seize the opportunities this great country has to offer.

Thank you. Merci.