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International Center

University of Missouri

Community health in Costa Rica

by Alexandra L.

Over winter break, I spent two weeks immersing myself in the lifestyle and culture of Costa Rica for a study abroad trip with the Sinclair School of Nursing. I was able to stay with an amazing homestay family and practice my Spanish speaking skills as well as learn about the country’s healthcare, education, economy and environment. Going in, I did not know what to expect, but I thought I would find a healthcare system lacking resources and quality of care that we have in the United States. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find a health care system that starts at the very basic foundation of health in the community, increasing the health of the entire nation.

Three women and a young girl smile while sitting together at a table.

Mi familia tica (my host family).

Costa Rica has a universal healthcare system that allows access to all people. The healthcare system of Costa Rica does a great job of educating the population about preventative measures to reduce the risk of preventable diseases. Their focus on primary care blows the United States out of the water, with home visits and patient education to prevent diseases from ever occurring. The United States has a more curative approach. We wait for the patient to get sick and them try to fix everything with the body, which is expensive and leads to other health complications. Another difference is that vaccination of all children is mandatory by law in Costa Rica. This has helped reduce the rates of several preventative diseases in the community as well. I found it interesting to compare both healthcare systems to each other and develop my own ideas of an ideal system. Overall, the trip was eye-opening and I have adapted several lifestyle changes to my own life, including taking care of my health and diet.

An open door to a room with a tree painted on the wall. Hospital supplies are on the counters next to a table covered with linen.

A hospital room in the Children’s Hospital where they get vaccines.

Student stands next to a sign that reads "Yesterday, today and always... children first".

The National Children’s Hospital in Costa Rica.


About the blogger

Alexandra L. is studying abroad on the Public and Community Health: Nursing in Costa Rica program in San Jose, Costa Rica.

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