When Tania Huedo-Medina, associate professor of biostatistics (below in UConn shirt), went to Cuba for the first time in November 2015 she had one goal — to study the island nation’s well-respected public health system. That quickly proved to be a more challenging undertaking than she expected. Still, during multiple visits over the next two years — documented in these photos taken by her and her team — Huedo-Medina and others from the UConn research community have forged relationships with Cuban health workers that promise to improve data collection and overall healthcare in both countries.
Door To Door
Huedo-Medina’s persistence slowly began to pay off. She finally got a first-hand look at how Cuban health care workers knew so much about the country’s citizens when she was invited to go door to door with them in Vedado, a middle-class neighborhood in Havana. Health workers routinely visit Cubans in their homes to gather information and address any medical concerns they have, a practice that seems unthinkable in the comparatively privacy-obsessed U.S., she says. But in Cuba, as Huedo-Medina saw, people readily open their doors to doctors and answer all of their questions.
During her first visits to Cuba, Huedo-Medina spent much of her time forging connections. The longtime rocky relationship between Cuba and the U.S. presented a challenge in that arena. The decades-old U.S. embargo of the country made some Cubans understandably uneasy about working with a U.S. institution. People were friendly, though, and Cuban academics and researchers got the necessary permissions from higher-ups in their organizations to work with her and the UConn team. A shared desire for finding and communicating better preventive health care strategies put them on the same page.
During each visit, Huedo- Medina connected with more Cubans and recognized more opportunities for other UConn faculty to get involved. Last spring, she and a team from UConn met with Cuban scientists in Havana. They brainstormed collaborative research projects around the modeling of data for efficient health policies and promotions. One project they hope to get under way soon involves the prevention of alcohol and tobacco abuse.