Students invited to study delegation in Cuba to explore public policy, social determinants of health

The Martin Luther King Center, Havana, Cuba
The Martin Luther King Center, Havana, Cuba

An experiential education study delegation will take York University students to Cuba in May 2020 to examine the country and its socialism, and understand what high-income countries may have to learn from Cuban public policy. Specifically, they will unpack the so-called “Cuba miracle.”

Cuba, a poor and blockaded island nation of less than 11 million inhabitants, has achieved enviable health and social indices, while high-income countries such as Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States battle with growing inequalities in health stemming from increasing socioeconomic inequalities. In Cuba, social inequalities in health are minimal, says Professor Claudia Chaufan from the School of Health Policy & Management, Faculty of Health.

The Martin Luther King Center, Havana, Cuba

The delegation will be led by Chaufan in collaboration with the Martin Luther King Center in Havana. It will explore the social determinants of health, the politics of health policy, democratic socialism and health equity. It will also consider the thousands of North American and British youth who suffocate under the burden of student debt – notably medical education debt – while, for more than half a century, Cuba has offered free medical education to thousands of youth, at home and abroad, including those in the U.S.

The goal of this study delegation is to help participants unpack what the academic literature has often called the Cuban “paradox” or “miracle,” and the achievements of Cuban public policy. Through a close exposure to and engagement with Cuban institutions, culture and communities, this delegation will help participants understand that the commitment to human rights by the Cuban state and by the Cuban people, together with their enviable social and health indices, are no paradox or miracle. They are instead the predictable outcomes of the ideological foundation of Cuban public policy, embedded in the socialist character of the Cuban state.

This character emerged more than half a century ago from within the ashes of the country’s earlier, neocolonial status and chains as part of the “backyard” of the United States. It explains Cuba’s commitment to protect the democratic and sovereign right of its people to decide how to distribute its resources, including the social determinants of health.

Students interested in attending this study delegation are invited to information sessions on Oct. 25 from 1 to 3 p.m. in 401 Health, Nursing & Environmental Studies Building or on Nov. 26 from 5 to 7 p.m. in 242 York Lanes.

The delegation is scheduled for the first two weeks of May 2020. For more information, contact Julie Hard at