“Lighting the way, building community, empowering the NICU/Preterm Birth traveler”-The Neonatal Womb Foundation

Salsarumba and mambo… Gloria Estefan… plantains …white-sand beaches, rolling mountains …cigars and rum…


Recently, we shared the March of Dimes preterm birth report card for the USA, and Global Preterm Birth standings per WHO. We queried what can we learn from other nations that would move the USA from a C grade to an A grade? Globally, resources to empower positive changes domestically and abroad are present, accessible and evolving! As our doors open to Cuba; we open our eyes to the wealth of wisdom, experience, and medical resources Cuba presents to the Neonatal Womb Community globally and locally.

Low Birth Weight Outcomes: Why Better in Cuba Than Alabama?

Yasmin Neggers, DrPH, RD and Kristi Crowe, PhD, RD, LD – Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine – March-April 2013

Doctors  Neggers and Crowe report that low birth weight (LBW; <2500 g) is the single most important factor affecting neonatal mortality and a significant determinant of post neonatal mortality. They indicate that LBW babies are at an increased risk for serious health problems, ranging from neurodevelopmental disabilities such as cerebral palsy and mental retardation to respiratory disorders. They note that in the United States, 65% of all infant deaths result from LBW and preterm birth. The authors report numerous factors associated with LBW including maternal age, race, weight before pregnancy, weight gain during pregnancy, prenatal care, and use of tobacco and alcohol products. In addition, socioeconomic conditions, nutrition during pregnancy, and anemia are key factors that have been proven to influence the prevalence of LBW. The article states “The percentage of LBW in Cuba is not only much lower than its neighboring developing countries such as Jamaica, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic, but is also lower than far more affluent countries such as England and the United States. Despite a per capita gross domestic product that places Cuba in the fourth quintile of nations, Cuba’s infant mortality rate rivals that of Canada and is lower than the average infant mortality rate in the United States and, in particular, the state of Alabama”. According to World Bank data, 100% of pregnant Cuban women receive prenatal care, defined as medical and nursing care recommended for women before and during pregnancy. In Cuba, implementation of universal health care with a strong focus on community-based services for prenatal care has significantly reduced the prevalence of LBW over the past 20 years. The article outlines several examples for implementing community-based prenatal care in the United States that were considered for adaptation on pilot scales in Alabama and North Carolina (USA).

* Most, but not all, LBW infants are born preterm. We encourage you to read the full informative and detailed article! –Source: Cuba’s Health Care System: a Model for the World The Huffington Post 08/08/2014

According to the UN’s World Health Organization, Cuba’s health care system is an example for all countries of the world.

“The Cuban health system is recognized worldwide for its excellence and its efficiency. Despite extremely limited resources and the dramatic impact caused by the economic sanctions imposed by the United States for more than half a century, Cuba has managed to guarantee access to care for all segments of the population and obtain results similar to those of the most developed nations. During her recent visit to Havana in July of 2014, Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), impressed by the country’s achievements in this field, praised the Cuban health care system: ““Cuba is the only country that has a health care system closely linked to research and development. This is the way to go, because human health can only improve through innovation.”” She also praised ““the efforts of the country’s leadership for having made health an essential pillar of development””. Cuba’s health care system is based on preventive medicine and the results achieved are outstanding. According to Margaret Chan, the world should follow the example of the island in this arena and replace the curative model, inefficient and more expensive, with a prevention-based system. ““We sincerely hope that all of the world’s inhabitants will have access to quality medical services, as they do in Cuba,” she said””.

The article concludes with the following statement: In praising Cuba, the World Health Organization stresses that it is possible for Third-world countries with limited resources to implement an efficient health care system and provide all segments of the population with social protection worthy of the name. This is possible if the political will exists to put human beings at the center of the project”.


In our “Healers” blog we touched upon the fact (WHO November, 2013) that globally there was a deficit of 7.2 million skilled health professionals, and the deficit is increasing…And the Largest Medical School in the World is in?


Havana, Cuba: Latin American Medical School (ELAM) -“Supporting the world’s largest medical school in the education of socially committed physicians.”

“I know of no other medical school with an admissions policy that gives first priority to candidates who come from poor communities and know, first-hand, what it means to live without access to essential medical care. For once, if you are poor, female, or from an indigenous population, you have a distinct advantage”.   ~WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan, visiting ELAM. Dr. Chan states “Cuba has the lowest infant mortality rate in the hemisphere: a child born in the eastern mountains of Cuba has a better chance of survival than a newborn in Washington DC. ” –Source-

The Cuban success in decreasing LB weight infants is worthy of our attention. As we investigated Cuba’s health care system we stumbled upon this comprehensive experience based and awakening Ted Talk by journalist Gail Reed: Where to train the world’s doctors?

Journalist Reed discusses how the world’s largest medical school (Havana Latin American Medical School/ELAM) provides:

  • – community based learning
  • – teaches students to treat the whole patient
  • – promotes the concept that a good patient interview and a thorough clinical exam provide most of the clues  for diagnoses saving costly technology for confirmation, importance of prevention
  • – a team approach to teaching, learning, working to support their mission In order to train physicians “for people that need them the most; the over 1 Billion who have never seen a doctor”.


Did you know that surfing in Cuba was illegal for many years? This nostalgic and dynamic YouTube adventure takes us on a short and beautiful journey into Cuba!

The narrator tells us “I believe surfing makes me a better person, challenges me and makes me feel connected to my body and to the ocean in ways that transcend simply being in the water and riding waves.”


-Published on Jun 11, 2013 Ola Libre – A Waterlust film about surfing in Cuba. A film by Mike Gibbons & Patrick Rynne aimed at exploring and supporting the emerging surf culture of Cuba.

How do you choose to be challenged, and what connects you to your body, to nature and our oneness on this life journey?

   MAHALO hearts


Author: Kathy Papac and Kathryn (Kat) Campos

Kathryn (Kat) Campos: Hello, I am a former 24 week gestation micro-preemie. I lost my twin brother Cruz at birth and encountered open heart surgery with no anesthesia at 3 weeks old weighing 1lb 3oz/0.58kg. I served on the University of Washington Medical Center Advisory Board Neonatal ICU Council from 2013 to 2015. I am passionate about assisting and supporting our Global NICU Community. If your a Preterm Birth/NICU Survivor this blog is dedicated to you, your family, and all members of the NICU Community. Together lets support other Preemie Survivors, Preemies, Preemie families, Preemie Community, Neonatal and related Staff, Providers, Professionals and Facilities. We ALL have stories to share and preemie journeys to help empower! Kathy Papac: Preemie Mom of surviving (Kathryn) and a deceased (Cruz) 24 week gestation twins. Neonatal Womb journeyer, counselor/legal expert with an MA certificate in Spirituality, Health and Medicine from Bastyr University. Passionate Global Community participant. Our goal is to recognize, honor and empower the Neonatal Womb community and shine light upon the presence and potentiality of the preterm birth survivors as vital community participants.

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