Global Health in Costa Rica


This program is currently available only to custom groups. Contact robin@cfhi.org if you are interested in learning more.

Global health as a field of study has emerged as a priority for the social and biological sciences. The global health field highlights the international dimension of current health issues, emphasizing a holistic understanding of each socio-cultural and environmental context. In addition, global health captures the need to work in collaboration, emphasizing a multisectoral and transdisciplinary approach to manage the transcultural and sometimes trans-bordering dimensions of worldwide health inequities.

This one-week program is embedded in some of the pressing grand challenges in the field of global health: achieving universal health care, increasing migration, and the demographic, nutritional, and epidemiological transition. Through a firsthand, interactive, immersive and enriching academic experience participants will be immersed in activities that facilitate the internalization of the concepts of global health and sustainable development.

With the development of a variety of learning formats such as community engagement, site visits, and workshops this program will provide students with a broad understanding of health and the social, political, cultural, behavioral and economic forces that influence health access, health outcomes, and health systems. Participants will be able to experience the multiple components that determine health, expanding their competencies within an ethically responsible and participatory approach.

CFHI offers options for students and faculty to fit your interests and schedule. Choose your program duration, or for a comparative experience, choose to participate in multiple programs. CFHI can also often accommodate alternate program dates upon request. For more information see our How to Apply page.


1 Week $1,500
Arrival Dates: 
(Monthly event) 

Key program themes include the following:

1. Understanding health systems in context:

  • The Costa Rican Social Security Fund
  • Achieving universal health care: challenges and opportunities
  • Comparative aspects of health systems

2. Determinants of health focus: culture and health

  • Intercultural approaches to healthcare delivery
  • Systems thinking approach to the determinants of health

3. Global health governance: perspectives from the ground

  • Leveraging cross-sectoral partnerships to tackle complex challenges
  • Trans-border health challenges

4. Think global, act local: Community sustainable development

  • Gender, sustainable development, and activism
  • Setting development agendas


Despite its small size, Costa Rica has great ecological and cultural diversity. Costa Rica has a well-developed health system and boasts high human development indices. However, there are regions of the country that to this day remain forsaken and achieving true health equity remains a challenge.

Brunca Region

Most of the program will take place in the southern part of the country in the Brunca Region. This region is the poorest and most isolated in Costa Rica yet it comes with invaluable assets such as its people, its nature and its body of traditional knowledge. Unfortunately, structural inequality and poor social determinants have led to poor health outcomes that due to the nature of the populations that are affected become invisibilized at the national level.

Accommodations & Homestays

Participants will stay in the Organization for Tropical Studies- Las Cruces Field Station. This location comes with all the educational facilities required for a world-class experience including Wi-Fi, lecture rooms, libraries, dorms, among other services and amenities.  Dietary requirements and restrictions can be accommodated throughout the program.

Arrival Information 

Participants should arrive in SJO – San Jose International Airport, Costa Rica on the program start date and will be picked up from the airport by a CFHI partner representative and taken to their homestay. A welcome orientation will take place the Sunday or Monday after arrival. 

Visas are not required for U.S. citizens staying less than 3 months in Costa Rica. More information on travel and logistics will be provided by CFHI after acceptance into the program.

What's Included 

CFHI Program fees include the majority of your on the ground costs. As a nonprofit, CFHI strives to keep fees low and offers fundraising opportunities, scholarships and discounts.

Pre-Departure Support

  • Guidance from CFHI staff in San Francisco Bay Area before departure

  • Program-specific materials with information on making travel arrangements, visa requirements, recommended immunizations, etc.

On-Site Service

  • Airport pick-up upon arrival and transportation to homestay in San José with local CFHI partner representative

  • Welcome orientation and welcome dinner with other participants covering safety, transportation, and other logistics

  • CFHI Local Team: providing instruction, logistical support, and 24/7 emergency response

  • Scheduled lectures, site visits, and activities

  • Accommodation and three meals a day on most days

  • International emergency medical and evacuation insurance (unless your home institution is providing this) 

Post-Return Resources

  • Access to CFHI alumni-only LinkedIn group featuring news and career opportunities related to Global Health

  • CFHI alumni newsletter highlighting events, resources, and ways to stay involved

Uniquely at CFHI, 60% or more of student program fees go directly to the communities they will be visiting, benefiting the local economy at large and specifically, underserved health systems. Read more here.

Carlos A. Faerron Guzman M.D., M.Sc. 

Dr. Faerron is the co-founder and current director of the InterAmerican Center for Global Health (CISG). CISG is the first global health hub in Central America and seeks to redefine the meaning of leadership and global health through innovative educational approaches.

Dr. Faerron Guzmán began his career as a primary care doctor in a rural area of Costa Rica where he worked closely with migrant and indigenous populations. His work follows a health equity and human rights framework as a guiding principle and firmly believes in progress in health through community empowerment, research, and education. He obtained his medical degree at the University of Costa Rica, and his MSc. in International Health at Queen Mary University in Edinburgh and Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam. Additional studies include Social Justice at the International Institute for Health and Development in Scotland and Social Innovation for Health from INCAE Business School. Dr. Faerron is a Fellow of the Planetary Health Alliance and the Central American Healthcare Initiative.  He holds an adjunct faculty appointment at the Department of Oral Health Policy and Epidemiology at Harvard University, and the University of Maryland Graduate School.

Carolina Bolaños Palmieri Lic, M.Sc

Carolina Bolaños Palmieri is a registered dietitian who focuses on using food as a bridge between development, sustainability, health, and equity. Carolina has experience in the management of projects in rural low-resource settings and collaborated in Rukara Health Center in Rwanda on strategies to tackle malnutrition. She has been a visiting scholar at the Education & Training Department at the Barcelona Institute for Global Health. Being a strong advocate for food waste prevention, Carolina is the Education and Research Coordinator for the NGO Alimentalistas an initiative part of the Costa Rican Network for the Reduction of Food Losses and Waste. She also sits on the board of directors of the organization. She has a bachelor's and licentiate degree in Nutrition from the University of Costa Rica and holds a master’s degree in Global Health from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health and the University of Barcelona. Currently, Carolina is the associate director of the Inter-American Center for Global Health.

What Alumni Say

“I really enjoyed the learning strategy, because it's easier to understand when you are really involved in a critical way of thinking and the whole process of construction of the information instead of just receive information and data” - Program Participant

“It really contextualizes the theories behind global health and grounds them in a practicality that a classroom simply can't compete with.” - Harvard University Student

“It's an amazing learning experience and life experience!” - Program Participant

“It was an amazing immersive global health learning experience where I not only gained an appreciation for the sociocultural influences on health outcomes but also formed friendships Costa Rican colleagues that I am confident I will have for a lifetime.” - Harvard University Student