Comparative Health Systems- Universal Health Care
Costa Rica, a middle-income country, has health status indicators, including longevity and infant mortality rates, which rival those of the U.S. while spending much less money as measured by per capita expenditures or percentage of GDP. The Costa Rican system focuses on primary care and health promotion to improve the health of vulnerable and poor population groups resulting in improved health for all. Health is regarded as a human right in Costa Rica, but not in the U.S. This program compares the health care systems of the United States and Costa Rica. The course examines national histories, philosophies, and cultural influences in light of the development of each country’s health care system. While abroad, you will experience first-hand public health topics through lectures, discussions, and site visits. On this program you will participate in meetings and lectures at the University of Costa Rica, with the majority of program activities and learning taking place in the field during site visits to the Ministry of Health, central and regional hospitals, and primary health care centers, as well as outreach programs designed to address the needs of at-risk populations (e.g. migrant coffee pickers, immigrant populations, and indigenous groups).
The course is appropriate for undergraduates majoring in public health, as well as graduate public health students and will be of special relevance to students interested in global health studies. The course has been divided into online course modules in Blackboard, an education abroad visit to Costa Rica, and a culminating paper. Each online module consists of one or more mini-lectures and a reading assignment. There are also two discussion questions to encourage class participation and four written assignments or exercises. There will be a final paper that will, at least in part, demonstrate your understanding of the major course learnings and competencies.
Graduate students, because this course is offered to both undergraduate public health majors and to graduate students, you will be required to complete and be graded on additional activities and assignments during the on-site portion of the course.
*Program is subject to minimum enrollment.
The specific learning objectives for this course include the development and demonstration of the following:
- An understanding of the building blocks of any national health care system (WHO);
- An understanding of the cultural diversity of population groups within various countries and regions of the world and their belief systems, values, and responses to illness and death as well as an understanding that global health cannot be separated from issues of human rights and social justice;
- An understanding of the social determinants of health and key concepts of health disparities;
- An understanding of the critical nature of the national history, philosophy, and culture on the development and maintenance of its health care system, including attitudes, beliefs and practices associated with race and ethnicity;
- An understanding of the importance of health for economic development and productivity;
- An understanding of Costa Rica’s health care system, including its emphasis on primary care and the promotion of health as integral to its success in providing low-cost, high quality care for all;
- An understanding of the many ways in which the health care system of the U.S. could learn from that of Costa Rica;
- An understanding of the challenges that face all national health care systems; and
- Demonstration of the ability to compare the health care systems of the U.S. and Costa Rica including recommendations for improving health outcomes by applying the knowledge and understandings gained during the course.
Please refer to the Course Syllabus (Draft) for additional course information.
Module 1 (December 19-20, 2019): The Building Blocks Required for Any National Health Care System (World Health Organization)
Module 2 (December 21-23, 2019): The Social Determinants of Health and Health as a Human Right
Module 3 (December 26-27, 2019): Foundations and Overview of the U.S. and Costa Rican Health Care Systems
Module 4 (December 28-29, 2019): Challenges Facing the U.S. & Costa Rican Health Care Systems (and Health Care Systems around the World)
Module 5 (January 2–5, 2020): Final Paper (written prior to education abroad program)
Module 6 (January 6-18, 2020): Experiential Learning / Exchange Visit to Costa Rica / Field Presentations
This program counts as a 3-credit, 400/500 level course and is equivalent to HPM 469 for undergraduates and HPM 669 for graduate students at UAlbany.
General Education Information for UAlbany Students
Credits earned on this program will automatically satisfy the International Perspectives requirement. No additional approval is required for you to earn these general elective credits.
Major/Minor Information for UAlbany Students
Courses may also satisfy major and minor requirements, upon approval by the department.
All courses taken abroad count towards UAlbany General Elective credits. Credits and grades will appear on your UAlbany transcript. You may file a request to have additional courses approved for equivalency as necessary.
This course is taught by Professor John Justino. Prof. Justino has worked for more than 20 years in international development and global public health. This includes over 15 years leading and consulting on social behavior change communications programs in sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere around the world focusing on HIV/AIDS prevention, malaria prevention and treatment, adolescent reproductive health, family planning, maternal and child health, and improved hygiene and sanitation. He is Director of UAlbany’s Center for Global Health and he administers the School of Public Health’s Graduate Certificate in Global Health Studies, as well as the School’s International Internship Program.
Accommodations are arranged by the University of Costa Rica (UCR). While in San Jose, you will stay at the Gran Casa Universitaria, a large “B & B” styled accommodation located across the street from the UCR campus. Information on the accommodations will be provided and arranged in advance of travel.
Information about meals is forthcoming.
Estimate of Costs
Remember to speak with the Office of Financial Aid to determine how your aid package will apply towards your program abroad.
The program is open to the following students:
- Undergraduate junior and senior level public health majors maintaining a 3.0 GPA or higher;
- Juniors or seniors studying for degrees in / anticipating careers in medicine, nutrition, and other health sciences fields who maintain a GPA of 3.0 or higher;
- School of Public Health Graduate Students with a 3.0 GPA or higher;
- Exceptional juniors or seniors studying in other fields interested in this program may inquire to see if an exception can be made.
A valid passport is required to participate in this program. If you are a permanent resident or international student, a visa may be required. More information regarding the visa application process is available upon acceptance to the program.
Experiential learning plays a critical role in your program experience. Understanding the history and culture of a country is vital to understanding the principles and values that underpin its health care system. To contextualize your experience, the program includes numerous activities which delve into and expose course participants to Costa Rican geography, history, and culture.
More information regarding excursions is available at the pre-departure orientation and upon arrival in Costa Rica.
*Excursions are a mandatory part of the program and specific destinations vary by program and availability.
**Schedule is tentative and subject to change
External scholarships, listed on our website, are a good way to partially fund your study abroad experience. In addition, the Center for International Education and Global Strategy offers two scholarship programs for UAlbany students studying abroad on UAlbany or 4-year SUNY programs.
More information on applying to these scholarships is located on the Scholarships web page.
Applications become available online one semester before the program start date, based on the following timeline:
- Winter programs: July
01/06/2020 to 01/18/2020
Please review the Costa Rica Winter 2019-20 Program Schedule/Course Calendar
*Schedule is tentative and subject to change
More information regarding flights is available upon acceptance.
About the Program
Your home base will be the University of Costa Rica (UCR). UCR’s School of Public Health is located on the University’s San Juan campus in a residential area close to the city center. The School is housed in a modern new facility within a short walk to dozens of restaurants and cafes.
Upon acceptance to the program, you will be required to attend a mandatory pre-departure orientation. During this time, you will have the opportunity to meet other program participants, discuss in-depth the details of your program, and prepare of the overall education abroad experience. The winter pre-departure orientation is typically conducted late November/early December.
You will also have an on-site orientation upon arrival to your host country.
The Faculty Leader, along with staff from the University of Costa Rica, are responsible for guiding all aspects of the program and will be available throughout the on-site portion of the course to manage any concerns or questions you may have while abroad. The UAlbany and UCR faculty accompany you on all program activities and outings.
UAlbany’s Office of Education Abroad staff assists you during the application process, in your preparation to travel abroad, and on-site if necessary.