Costa Rica Remains Leader in Health

June 5, 2009

That Costa Rica is in the top 10 among its Latin American neighbors in almost every health statistic – according to a recent report from the World Health Organization (WHO) – is no surprise to medical experts here.

This little country with a population of 4 million provides coverage to more than 90 percent of its residents, gives access to 100 percent of those living within its borders and caters to a population with a heightened concern about health. As a result, it has some of the lowest mortality rates among children under the age of five, pregnant mothers and malaria patients, and it ascends to the top of the list for access to improved sanitation and clean drinking water.

“It’s an excellent system,” said Isaac Waserstein, a leader in the pharmaceutical business, who has spent more than 30 years watching Costa Rica’s medical industry. “Results show that we have a health system that is working. Can it be more efficient? Sure. But we are doing a good job.”

Yet, in a medical landscape that is constantly changing, some wonder whether Costa Rica can maintain its successes.

Costa Rica’s population is growing older and technology is changing rapidly, two factors which drive up costs and make it difficult for the country to maintain its level of services. Insurance companies are beginning to set roots here, thanks to the Central American Free Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA), which adds a new dimension to the equation.

The country’s health system faces many challenges in the future, including providing private-level care on the public dime and keeping pace with technological advances, but, if Costa Rica maintains its public health system, Waserstein is confident the country will continue to top the list of health statistics.

“The theme of medicine in the world is that it is expensive. It’s not a penny business,” said Waserstein, president of Stein Inc., a pharmaceutical company. “What makes it more expensive today than 20 or 30 years ago is technology and the fact that more people are using the system. They are living longer so they are using the system more.”

At least one area in which Costa Rica falls behind, according to the recent report, is in the number of its teenage girls who are pregnant.

Statistics show that 63 of every 1,000 girls between the ages 15 and 19 are or have been pregnant – slightly above the average for the Americas as a whole (see chart).

This is more of a social issue than a medical one, said Waserstein, adding that he blames a loss in family values for adolescent pregnancies.

 

Facebook Comments

You may be interested

La Sele continues to struggle, falls to Colombia, 3-1
La Sele
307 views
La Sele
307 views

La Sele continues to struggle, falls to Colombia, 3-1

Alejandro Zúñiga - October 17, 2018

One of La Sele’s shining moments happened right there, at the Red Bull Arena, a little over a year ago.…

Jaguars: a symbol of Costa Rica
Pic of the Day
670 views
Pic of the Day
670 views

Jaguars: a symbol of Costa Rica

Alissa Grosskopf - October 17, 2018

Jaguars represent an important part of Latin America's indigenous heritage. For its strength, grace and mysterious aura, it is a…

Nicaragua calls Carlos Alvarado’s statements “disrespectful” and “intrusive”
News
1473 views
News
1473 views

Nicaragua calls Carlos Alvarado’s statements “disrespectful” and “intrusive”

AFP / The Tico Times - October 16, 2018

The Nicaraguan government described statements by Costa Rican president Carlos Alvarado about Nicaragua's “internal affairs” as “disrespectful” and “intrusive.” The…