Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Blacks and whites in Cuba have equal prevalence of hypertension: confirmation from a new population survey

Pedro Ordúñez12, Jay S Kaufman3*, Mikhail Benet2, Alain Morejon2, Luis C Silva4, David A Shoham5 and Richard S Cooper5

Author Affiliations

1 Project for Chronic Disease Prevention and Control, Pan American Health Organization, 20037, Washington DC, USA

2 Centro de Estudios sobre Enfermedades Crónicas, Universidad de Ciencias Médicas, 55100, Cienfuegos, Cuba

3 Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics, and Occupational Health, McGill University, 1020 Pine Ave West, H3A 1A2, Montreal, QC, Canada

4 Centro Nacional de Información de Ciencias Médicas, La Habana, Cuba

5 Department of Preventive Medicine and Epidemiology, Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine, 60153, Maywood, IL, USA

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BMC Public Health 2013, 13:169  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-169

Published: 24 February 2013



The excess burden of hypertension among blacks has been a prominent feature of the heath disparities literature, and many scientists presume it to be a stable and inevitable phenomenon. The underlying causes of this disparity can only be disentangled in a setting in which the population does not experience racial stratification of socioeconomic opportunities. While such conditions of racial equality remain uncommon, they may be approximated in Cuba, a country with a persistent policy of social inclusion over the last 5 decades.


We report on a 2010–2011 stratified probability sample of those aged 15–74 years from the urban population of Cienfuegos in central Cuba. A total of 1496 adults (880 women and 616 men) were recruited and assessed for blood pressure and anthropometrics according to standardized protocols, as well as medication use, educational attainment and observed skin tone (dichotomized into “black” and “white”). Weighted tabular and regression analyses were conducted to estimate adjusted prevalences of hypertension (> 140/90 mmHg) and adjusted prevalence odds ratios for contrasts between the two skin color groups.


Mean pressures were higher for men than for women, but overall did not differ importantly between racial groups. About half of all diagnosed hypertensive men were on medication, a proportion that did not vary by racial group. For women, however, adjusted prevalence was somewhat higher among blacks, and treatment and control rates were also somewhat advantaged for white women.


Overall, skin color was unrelated to mean blood pressure or hypertensive status in this population, although among women specifically some racial advantage appears evident in adjusted prevalence and control, and should be investigated further. The overall null result suggests that Cuba may exemplify the social conditions in which racial excess in hypertension, characteristic of much of the western world, is not a necessary reality.

Blood pressure; Cuba; Ethnic groups; Hypertension; Stress