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close this bookThe Nutrition and Health Transition of Democratic Costa Rica (INFDC, 1995, 228 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentContributors to this volume
View the documentIntroduction
close this folder1. Health policies and strategies
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View the documentA brief description of Costa Rica
View the documentPublic health development
View the documentThe decade of the 1970s
View the documentThe decade of the 1980s
View the documentFinal reflections
View the documentReferences
close this folder2. Development of the social security institute
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentBackground
View the documentSocial security in Costa Rica
View the documentThe extension of direct insurance
View the documentExtension of insurance to the family
View the documentThe financial crisis
View the documentThe constitutional amendment
View the documentToward universalization
View the documentDevelopment of human resources
View the documentThe integration
View the documentThe new health care models
View the documentFinal comments
close this folder3. Development and characteristics of health and nutrition services for urban and rural communities of Costa Rica
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View the documentIntroduction
View the documentBackground information on community outreach programs
View the documentMethodological characteristics of the Costa Rican health programs
View the documentNutrition programs
View the documentImpact of the programs on the health of children living in rural areas
View the documentConclusions
View the documentReferences
View the documentBibliography
close this folder4. Evolution of an epidemiological profile
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentStages of a process
View the documentThe first four decades of the century
View the documentThe period between 1940 and 1970
View the documentThe decade of the 1970s
View the documentThe decade of the 1980s
View the documentThe last decade of the century
View the documentFinal comments
View the documentReferences
close this folder5. Socioeconomic factors for the understanding of health policy during the 1970s
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View the documentIntroduction
View the documentRecognition of social demands and the regulation of the conflict during the 1930s and 1940s
View the documentThe social government in the new development strategy of Costa Rica during the 1950s and 1960s
View the documentThe consolidated social government
View the documentFinal reflections
View the documentAcknowledgement
View the documentReferences
close this folder6. Problems and challenges of the health sector during the 1980s
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentSome problems of the health sector in the 1980s
View the documentBalance of the 1980s and perspectives for the 1990s in the health sector
View the documentReferences
View the documentAppendix 1 - Glossary
close this folderAppendix 2 - Supplementary reading list
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View the documentEnglish-language supplementary reading list
View the documentSpanish-language supplementary reading list
View the documentSupplementary reading list - INCAP publications
close this folderAppendix 3 - Health conditions in Costa Rica 1994
View the documentGeneral information
View the documentSpecific health problems

A brief description of Costa Rica

Costa Rica was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1502; it became politically independent in 1821, and started its life as a republic in 1825. The first heads of government were school teachers. The Costa Rican territory has an area of 51,100 km² and is located on the isthmus of Central America (Figure 1). In 1992, it had approximately 3 million inhabitants, mostly whites and mestizos; other races represent less than 5% of the population and show a strong trend towards integrating with the rest. Around 10% of the total population consists of immigrants and Central and South American refugees.

The Costa Rican economy is based on agricultural products, such as coffee, bananas, sugar, and meat. A light industry has emerged in the past 20 years, and tourism has been developing recently. The country is known for having a well-established Western democratic political system, which has been interrupted only twice in the last 100 years. All governments have stressed education and health, which has resulted in a literacy rate of less than 10% and one of the lowest overall mortality rates in the world. Thanks to the convergence of these factors and the historical evolution of the country, Costa Ricans share a strong spirit of solidarity and a deep respect for law, social justice, and freedom. The constitutional abolishment of the army in 1949 made possible a further increase in social sector investment. Law enforcement and security were turned over to a civilian police force, which comes under the Supreme Electoral Tribunal during election periods and changes every four years with the government.


FIGURE 1. Map of Central America

In the 1970s, there was a sharp increase in the country's commitment to making health services available to everyone. This emphasis on investment in health is another feature that distinguishes Costa Rica.

Table 1 presents some milestones of Costa Rican history.