Children’s Hospital Colorado doctors take groundbreaking trip to Cuba

Group of 14 headed to Havana to be co-led by Colorado doctor where advances in various areas of child health will be swapped

A national delegation of pediatricians co-led by doctors at Children’s Hospital Colorado is to travel to Cuba this week as part of a collaborative effort to improve child health in each country.

The trip is the first of its kind since the United States normalized diplomatic relations with the communist country in July with the opening of an embassy there.

The coalition of 13 doctors, 10 of them from Children’s, will be led by two former presidents of the American Academy of Pediatrics — Dr. Stephen Berman from Children’s and the University of Colorado and Dr. James Perrin from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard University — according to a news release issued Monday.

They will meet with doctors Thursday through Saturday in Havana and discuss progress each has made in the areas of newborn care, chronic health conditions among children and early childhood development.

The American doctors will share advances in early brain development as well as new approaches to promoting responsive parenting, while their Cuban counterparts will discuss successes in reducing the incidence of premature birth.

“The delegation of U.S. pediatricians is eager to hear from our Cuban counterparts about the progress they have made toward improving child health during this long period of isolation,” Berman said in a statement. “We also hope to begin an ongoing collaboration while creating cross-national partnerships to improve the health of children in both of our countries.”

Heidi Baskfield, executive director of advocacy at Children’s, will join the group on its trip.

Berman’s work in global health began in Santiago de Cali, Colombia, in the late 1970s while studying acute respiratory infections there. Since then, he has served as a special adviser to the World Health Organization, the Pan American Health Organization and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

“As Cubans gain access to new medications and technology, training will become very important,” Berman said. “We would like to eventually establish an exchange program so Cuban doctors can come and train here at Children’s Colorado and vice versa.”

Diplomatic relations were restored with Cuba in July, ending an isolation that began in 1961, during the Cold War. A commercial, economic and financial embargo, however, remains in effect until its dissolution is approved by Congress.

The trip is sponsored jointly by the Cuban Pediatric Society, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Pan American Health Organization, Children’s Colorado, and the Center for Global Health at the Colorado School of Public Health at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus.
David Migoya, The Denver Post
February 1, 2016

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