The Arts & Lectures screening of the much-lauded documentary, directed by Connie Field, “¡Salud!” was an informative, thought-provoking experience that raised many important questions on relevant issues in today’s modern world; the key issue -and objective – being universal health care. Introducing the Santa Barbara premiere of the documentary was Diane Applebaum the U.S. director Medical Education Cooperation with Cuba. After the screening, Applebaum welcomed one of the stars of the film, Dr. Luther Castillo, who graduated from medical school in Cuba and helped to build a hospital in Honduras. Dr. Castillo answered many important questions after the screening and expressed his passion for building sustainability and bringing health care to more remote areas. The documentary focused on certain countries’ personal challenges with health, while emphasizing the connection between medical communities and Cuba.

One principal component of “¡Salud!” was the foregrounding of the dire situation that many countries have to face: the dichotomy of universal health care as a human right versus health as a commodity. The documentary brilliantly illustrated the obstacles that plague countless poor, underdeveloped countries with no health care systems but also does a brilliant job of delivering a message of hope. The wonderful efforts of Cuba in public health and medical schools set a positive example for many countries, as students from all over the world attend medical school in Cuba and go back to help their respective communities. “¡Salud!” examines the magnitude of the problems so many disadvantaged places face, focusing particularly on The Gambia, Venezuela, Honduras and South Africa, and what they have been able to accomplish as a result of collaborating with health professionals from Cuba. One of the issues “¡Salud!” investigates is the problem of privatization, explaining that as an overwhelming number of doctors join the private sector, the number of public health professionals needed has seriously grown and countless people are deprived of necessary health care. “¡Salud!” sheds light on major issues that still need to be confronted and questions that need to be addressed – such as providing health care to areas where it is needed most, stopping disease from devastating countless countries, the government’s role and responsibility for providing health care to its citizens and more.

Perhaps the most rewarding feature of “¡Salud!” was the possibility that other countries will follow and adopt Cuba’s policies and participate in a global effort toward a universal health care system. The foundation that Cuba has built and the level of solidarity and cooperation between so many countries brings hope and promise to the rest of the world. While there are indubitably barriers and complications to confront, the film demonstrates that it is possible, and that steps can and are being taken, and other countries around the world can take note and do something proactive to benefit humankind.

(Four Stars)