Health and Science

US announces health collaboration with Cuba; will coordinate on diseases, R&D

Sylvia Burwell, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.
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The United States said Monday it will collaborate with Cuba on health issues, the latest step in an historic rapprochement between the one-time bitter adversaries.

An agreement between the U.S. and Cuba calls for "coordination across abroad spectrum of public health issues, including global health security, communicable and non-communicable diseases, research and development, and information technology," according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell signed a memorandum of understanding outlining the agreement with Cuba's minister of health, Dr. Roberto Tomás Morales Ojeda, who began a two-day visit at HHS on Monday.

"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," Burwell said.

"This new collaboration is a historic opportunity for two nations to build on each other's knowledge and experience, and benefit biomedical research and public health at large," Burwell said.

HHS said that the U.S. and Cuba "share an interest in detecting and responding to emerging infectious diseases such as dengue and chikungunya, [and other] serious mosquito-borne viral diseases," such as the Zika virus.

"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.," HHS said.

The agency noted that several U.S. health delegations have already traveled to Cuba, and that Cuba's vice minister for public health spent a week at HHS in April.

Cuba and the United States reestablished diplomatic relations last year after decades of animosity.