One Health Global Exchange Academy

Building Health Culture and Selfcare

Ever since Costa Rica abolished its army back in 1948, most of the army´s budget was destined to strengthen and expand two recently created institutions: The University of Costa Rica (UCR) founded in 1940 and Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS) established in 1941. Still today, these institutions remain in high esteem by the population and are considered pillars of democracy, as they keep safeguarding public education and public healthcare with universal access. This visionary change of focus launched in the 40’s, has consolidated over decades in a solid public awareness about the importance of education and health, leading to a natural and unique Costa Rican Culture of Health and Selfcare, fact that allowed the country to upgrade health standards and mark a distance from its neighboring countries. Likewise, the national health indicators improved over the time and reached levels today to compete and surpass similar indicators from high income and developed countries.

Building a culture of health within a community is an essential endeavor that brings forth numerous benefits for individuals and society. This effort revolves around encouraging and fostering healthy behaviors, attitudes, and practices among community members, while also emphasizing the significance of personal self-care actions.

A health-conscious community culture lays the foundation for improved overall well-being. When individuals are collectively motivated to prioritize health, they are more likely to engage in regular exercise, maintain balanced diets, and make conscious choices that promote mental and physical wellness. This proactive approach to health not only reduces the risk of chronic illnesses but also contributes to increased energy levels, enhanced productivity, and a higher quality of life.

Implementing personal self-care actions within this cultural framework is a vital component. It empowers individuals to take responsibility for their own health and wellness, recognizing that small, consistent efforts can have a lasting impact. Engaging in self-care routines, such as practicing mindfulness, setting aside time for relaxation, and ensuring adequate sleep, equips individuals with the tools to manage stress effectively and bolster their resilience in the face of challenges.

Moreover, a health-oriented community culture fosters social connections and support networks. When people come together with a shared commitment to well-being, they can encourage and inspire one another, making it easier to adopt and maintain healthy habits. This sense of community also provides a safety net during difficult times, ensuring that individuals do not feel isolated while navigating their health journeys. This is only one of the many lessons learned out of the 5 Blue Zones studied in the world, (geographic areas with higher numbers of functional centennials) and Costa Rica holds one: Nicoya, Guanacaste.

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The ripple effects of a health-focused community culture are far-reaching. As individuals experience the positive outcomes of their efforts, they become advocates for healthier living, inspiring others to join the movement. Gradually, this culture of health extends beyond personal boundaries and infiltrates various aspects of society, from schools and workplaces to local policies and infrastructure.

Costa Rica represents a successful example of how to build a culture of health within a community. Continuous health education and fostering personal self-care actions are two sides of the same coin. They reinforce each other, creating a dynamic synergy that promotes well-being on an individual and collective level. By nurturing this culture, we pave the way for happier, healthier and longer lives, contributing to the creation of vibrant, resilient communities.

A lecture about how this Costa Rican Culture of Health and Selfcare keeps changing the country’s epidemiology and shapes better health indicators, will be available as part of the Study Abroad Learning Experience for students visiting Costa Rica.

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