Costa Rican health minister: Auto accidents are a public health issue

August 3, 2015
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Costa Rica’s health minister called auto accidents a public health priority on Monday during the presentation of the country’s new National Health Plan. Health Minister Dr. Fernando Llorca’s words were part of what he said was a more “holistic” approach to public health in Costa Rica.

“Historically, roadway safety has focused on automobiles as the problem. Ideally, the topic of roadway safety starts with the pedestrian, cyclists, people who can’t walk freely down the sidewalk. This is the new vision of roadway safety we want to promote in Costa Rica,” Llorca told The Tico Times.

Llorca gave the example of greater cooperation between the Roadway Safety Council (COSEVI), the Health Ministry and public and private insurers to create a more compete picture of the dangers facing motorists, cyclists and pedestrians. The minister said that this information could be used to identify problem areas where preventative action could be taken.

“If we had a registry that went beyond a list of accidents and deaths involved we could identify areas for improvement and solutions,” he said. Llorca said that he was personally attending meetings with COSEVI.

According to figures from COSEVI, 359 people died in traffic accidents during 2014. The vast majority — 105 — were motorcyclists, followed by pedestrians (76). More than 100 people died in traffic accidents during the first quarter of 2015.

The more expansive view of public health included topics like gender, nondiscrimination in access to services, cultural understanding as well as a focus on the economic stability of the Costa Rican Social Security System and Health Ministry services.

The National Health Plan “Juan Guillermo Ortiz Guier” laid out five major areas that the Solís administration said it would prioritize, ranging from greater public participation in health care policy development, equal access to health services, promoting healthy lifestyles, environmental health, and climate change adaptation and risk management.

Vice President Ana Helena Chacón said that the average lifespan in Costa Rica, roughly 80 years old, according to the World Bank, surpassed that in the United States (more than 78). Despite the country’s longevity, Chacón said that there was still much to do to improve the country’s well-known public health system, especially when it came to access to health services for women and migrants.

“Public health is essential for development and democracy,” said President Luis Guillermo Solís during the plan’s presentation.

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