On Monday, US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Cuba’s Ministry of Public Health, an important milestone between the two countries since the re-establishment of diplomatic relations in 2015.
The MOU establishes coordination across a broad spectrum of public health issues, including global health security, communicable and non-communicable diseases, research and development, and information technology.
The signing also kicks off a two-day visit to HHS from Cuba’s Minister of Health, Dr. Roberto Tomás Morales Ojeda.
“Cuba has made significant contributions to health and science, as evidenced by their contribution to the Ebola response in West Africa and becoming the first country to eliminate mother-to-child HIV transmission. This new collaboration is a historic opportunity for two nations to build on each others knowledge and experience, and benefit biomedical research and public health at large,” Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell said.
The US and Cuba share an interest in detecting and responding to emerging infectious diseases such as dengue and chikungunya, serious mosquito-borne viral diseases. Both countries also have an aging population, necessitating an increased focus on responding to the increasing burden of neurodegenerative and non-communicable diseases, including cancer, which is the leading cause of death in Cuba and second in the U.S.
Several US delegations have already traveled to Cuba.
In April, the HHS Office of Global Affairs hosted a historic delegation from Cuba: Vice Minister for Public Health José Angel Portal Miranda, along with health sector leaders and representatives from the Cuban embassy, met with HHS and Department of State officials for the first time since President Obama announced significant moves to normalize relations with Cuba.
The week-long trip, which included visits to NIH in Bethesda and then to CDC headquarters in Atlanta, focused on deepening scientific and public health cooperation between the United States and Cuba. Immediate areas of possible collaboration include expanding research, monitoring and responding to infectious diseases like Zika and dengue, and treating and addressing non-communicable diseases like cancer and diabetes.