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Graying Cuba strains socialist safety net

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Science  15 May 2015:
Vol. 348, Issue 6236, pp. 750
DOI: 10.1126/science.348.6236.750

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Summary

Cuba spends a pittance on health care, but with a life expectancy of 78 years for both sexes, it's neck and neck with the United States. Two big reasons Cubans live long without prospering are a raft of compulsory childhood immunizations and an army of doctors deployed across the nation. But that signal achievement of Cuban science has led to new challenges as the country grapples with a rapidly aging population. Young adults have left the country in droves, and those who stay aren't reproducing: Cuba has one of the lowest fertility rates in the world, averaging 9.9 births per 1000 people. A graying population is straining Cuba's social safety net and its vaunted health system. Cuban scientists are exploring how to slow cognitive declines in the elderly and how to transform cancer into a chronic disease through broad use of therapeutic vaccines.