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BRATTLEBORO REFORMER: Local woman to travel to Cuba

February 11th, 2009

By Bob Audette

For a local pyschologist, traveling to Cuba is a great way to connect with people and to learn how a poor island nation can provide health care to all its residents.

"We will visit many places and talk first hand with staff and directors," said Judy Greenberg, who has her own private practice and is a mental health counselor in the Department of Student Services at SIT Graduate Institute. Greenberg will lead a delegation of health care professionals to Cuba from March 14 to 24. "These are face-to-face meetings with plenty of time for questions and answers."

Greenberg is looking for other professional mental health, social services and health care providers to make the trip with her and seven other people.

"These are people who've been working in health care and social services and have been doing peace and justice work," she said. Spaces are available for other professionals, she added.
Because U.S. law doesn't allow for tourists to travel to Cuba, only full-time professionals such as Greenberg are allowed to travel there and the trips must have something to do with their occupations.

The trip is a program of Witness for Peace.

Participants will visit the Latin American School of Medicine, the Havana Psychiatric Hospital, the Havana AIDS Sanitarium and hospitals and local health clinics and will meet and talk with the minister of Public Health.

Joanne Ranney, the New England regional organizer for Witness for Peace, located in Burlington, admitted Cuba is no paradise and is very poor, but it still manages to find a way to provide universal health care and mental health services for all.

"Cuba's not as backward and remote as we are led to believe," she said. "It's a very humane situation."

The trip to Cuba is not so much about bringing knowledge of Cuba's system back, said Ranney. It's about people from two different countries connecting with each other.

"It's about us understanding that Cuba is a complicated country," she said.

Those visiting Cuba will also have a chance to see how the 47-year-old embargo has affected the country's health care facilities and service providers, said Ranney.

Greenberg is a member of the National Board of Directors of Witness for Peace.

This will be Greenberg's third trip to Cuba. Her first was with Witness for Peace and the second was with the Child Trauma Institute, which is in Greenfield, Mass.

Visiting Cuba is a chance to see how a system doesn't have to be based on profits and instead can be based on relationships between health care providers and their patients, she said.

"They have a lot to teach us," said Greenberg. "Health care is not a commodity."

Providers here in the states can learn a lesson from Cuba about the efficacy of preventative care, she said, which the Cubans have wholeheartedly adopted for very practical reasons.

"They don't have the financial privilege of waiting for things to get out of control," said Greenberg.