Healthcare in Costa RicaCosta Rica is a Central American country located between Nicaragua and Panama. It has a population of more than five million people. Healthcare in Costa Rica ranks among the best systems in Latin America. The level of medical quality matches even that of more-developed countries, such as the United States. In a 2000 survey by the World Health Organization (WHO), Costa Rica was ranked No. 36 for the best healthcare system in the world, placing it one spot above the U.S. at the time. Other statistics from the WHO show that Costa Rica has a high life expectancy — 77 for men and 82 for women. For comparison, the United States’ life expectancy is 76 for men and 81 for women. There are two Costa Rican healthcare systems — the government-run system and the private system. Both of these healthcare systems are constantly improving, with developments in equipment, clinics and staff training.

Public Healthcare

Costa Rica’s government-run public healthcare system, Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS), often called “Caja,” has 30 hospitals and over 250 clinics throughout the country. Though the public sector can have waiting lists, like any other healthcare system, it offers citizens and permanent residents full coverage for all medical procedures and prescription drugs. A small percentage of one’s income funds Caja. It is relatively inexpensive, especially in comparison to the costs of treatments in the United States.

Private Healthcare

Private healthcare in Costa Rica is more expensive than public healthcare, but it is of considerable quality. Doctors in private healthcare facilities generally speak English and have received professional training in the United States, Europe or Canada. CIMA hospital in Escazu, Clínica Bíblica in San Jose and Hospital La Católica in Guadalupe (San Jose) are the three most well-known private hospitals in Costa Rica and they are also internationally accredited.

Medical Tourism

The beautiful scenery and relatively low costs of healthcare in Costa Rica have turned the country into a popular spot for “medical tourism.” Medical tourism is defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as “traveling to another country for medical care.” Each year, more than 40,000 Americans travel to Costa Rica annually to seek healthcare. In 2016, Costa Rica welcomed 70,000 medical tourists according to the Costa Rican Health Chamber, PROMED. The primary procedures for medical tourists in Costa Rica are dentistry and cosmetic surgery.

Both citizens and medical tourists can attest that healthcare in Costa Rica is of great quality and is low-cost in comparison to other systems. With the constant improvements to the universal and private health sectors, Costa Rica rightfully deserves its ranking as one of the best healthcare systems in Latin America.

Emma Benson
Photo: Southcom

Top Ten Facts About Living Conditions in Barbados
Barbados, known famously as a tropical destination, is one of the most prosperous of the Caribbean Islands despite the increase of its total poverty rate which now sits at 17.21 percent compared to 15 percent in 2010.

The country used to rely economically on sugar exports, but now heavily relies on tourism and finance. Many resorts have had success in Barbados as the white sand beaches, tropical vegetation, warm weather and bright blue water welcome a reputation as a relaxing vacation getaway. However, away from the resorts and tourism, living conditions do not portray the same picture. Below are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Barbados.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Barbados

  1. The most expensive properties are located on the west coast of Barbados, which heavily caters to extremely wealthy tourists. A three-bedroom house rents for around $1,500-$5,000 a month, while the south coast of Barbados rent runs for about $1,350 a month. Fifty-four percent of households own the property without a mortgage, and as a result, the Barbados housing market remains weak. Residential property prices in Barbados, especially in the high-end market, are still about 29 percent below the peak levels seen before the global crisis.
  2. The reported overall poverty rate in 2016 was 17.21 percent. The St. John Parish — which caters mainly towards local inhabitants — was reported as the poorest parish on the island as it had a 15.56 percent increase in poverty since 2010. In Barbados, 3.39 percent of the population do not receive their minimum caloric requirement; in terms of early childhood development, 4 percent of children living in extreme poverty and aged 0-5 were reported as stunted in growth. These numbers were calculated in comparison to the international average of anthropometric of height and weight for children in this age group.
  3. Sixty percent of households have outer walls with masonry and 51 percent have roofs built from corrugated metal sheets that provide sturdy protection against weather. Eighty-eight percent of households have WC connected to a well system and 96 percent have water pipelines. Most homes are equipped with modern amenities.
  4. The 2017 statistics on crime rates in Barbados reported that the country had 11 murders, 84 robberies and 29 shootings per every 100,000 people. Drug-related crimes are the most prevalent type of crime  in Barbados, with residential burglaries coming in at a close second. The population of Barbados was reported at 285,719 in 2017, which puts into perspective how large the issue of drug-related crime and residential burglary is within the nation.
  5. In 2012, the Barbados government enacted a poverty intervention plan called the Implementation Stabilization Enablement and Empowerment (ISEE) Bridge Program. The program was created in order to address intergenerational extreme poverty and aid welfare at the household level. Each member of the household in need receives aid which will eventually reduce their dependency on the government. The goal of this program is to prevent extreme poverty from continuing in the next generation and release families from the cycle of poverty.
  6. The Barbados Government Information Service (BGIS) is the official communications arm of the Barbados government. This department is responsible for the dissemination of public information to the various news media and the general public.
  7. In 2015, the Inter-American Development Bank provided $10 million to the government of Barbados to carry out the ‘Strengthening Human and Social Development in Barbados’ project. The project will last for 5 years and sets out to aid unemployment, youth from the ages of 16-30 and retrenched workers. This project will strengthen the active labor market policy, enhance information sharing capacity through a new management information system, and expand the number of households aided by the ISEE Bridge Project.
  8. It is not often that the words ‘poverty’ and ‘Barbados’ are used in the same sentence. The island enjoys a high ranking on the UNDP Human Development Index, and according to a Barbados Country Assessment of Living Conditions Report, it ranks in the top 50 countries in the world.
  9. Teen motherhood in Barbados — measured for women who had children at or below the age of 19 — sat at 25 percent for women 30 years old or older. However, data shows that as education levels increased for women in Barbados, teen motherhood decreased. The amount of teen motherhood for women in their twenties (a decade or so later) was at about 14 percent.
  10. In terms of education in Barbados, 97.02 percent of the population attended a formal educational institution, 66 percent had completed secondary education and 32.3 percent obtained higher qualifications. Of the 32.3 percent that continued past secondary education, 13.5 percent pursued vocational/technical training and 18.8 percent pursued tertiary education. In regards to public healthcare, Barbados has 8 accessible polyclinics which provide immunization services and curative acute care for children. A few of the polyclinics also provide dental and eye care; as a whole, these polyclinics provided 87.5 percent of all immunizations in Barbados.

A Nation in Progress

As this list of top 10 facts about living conditions in Barbados reveals, Barbados still has issues to address regarding poverty and living conditions. However, according to Barbados Country Assessment of Living Conditions, Barbados ranked in the top 50 countries in the world, and the Barbados government is active and dedicated in launching social welfare programs and progressing their country.

– Mary Spindler
Photo: Pixabay

Just last week, Cuba celebrated the 16th annual Havana Cigar Festival, despite the increase in anti-smoking measures around the world.

The festival, which began February 24, is the world’s premier cigar event, with more than 1,500 enthusiasts flocking to Cuba’s capital for the week. The annual occasion is meant to introduce tobacco specialists and cigar lovers to new cigars and how they can combine with haute cuisine. Among the events at the festival were visits to tobacco farms and factories, the launch of new cigar labels and visits to locally-grown tobacco markets.

The festival concluded on Friday with a real twist: a gala dinner and humidor auction, where $1.1 million was raised for Cuba’s public healthcare system.

The festival sparked much public interest into the current state of Cuban health care, often noted as a public health care model that could inform other developing countries.

Cuba’s health care system is a private-payer system managed by the government. Its focus is on prevention and community health, with 1,000 patients per physician in urban areas. Primary care is highly valued and physicians tend to live in the same communities as their patients.

Virtually all citizens of Cuba have been vaccinated and the life expectancy of 78 is almost identical to that of the United States. The infant mortality rate is lower than that of the U.S., with fewer than deaths per 1,000 births. The literacy rate is 99 percent and health education is a mandatory part of school curriculum.

These improved health outcomes are largely due to the fact that the healthcare system addresses immediate bio-medical concerns as well as the social determinants of health such as nutrition and education.

Despite these advances, there are still major problems occurring within Cuba’s health care system. The country is far from developed and lacks basic infrastructure needed to maintain a healthy population. Resources are limited, technology is at a minimum and the Internet is often hard to obtain.

Some of these obstacles are beginning to be addressed by the Cuban government. For example, resources have been invested in developing more advanced biotechnology at the level seen in countries such as the U.S.

With the help of the generous donation to Cuba’s health care system made Friday, people might see some of these advances in the near future.

– Mollie O’Brien

Sources: Daily Journal, Chicago Tribune, The New England Journal of Medicine
Photo: National Turk