The health care system in the United States continues to experience skyrocketing costs, high chronic disease burden, and poor population health. It has repeatedly fallen short on delivering timely and accessible health care, and disparities between populations continue to grow — as the COVID-19 crisis has highlighted. In particular, inadequate access to primary health care has diminished the U.S. system’s capacity to prevent chronic disease and manage population health, led to delayed diagnoses and incomplete treatment adherence, and created problems related to patient safety and care coordination.1

With public frustration over the current system mounting, many in the United States believe that significant reforms are warranted. Costa Rica offers an example of an efficient health care system centered around a backbone of robust, community-oriented primary health care, characterized by strong and effective use of community health workers to improve access, quality, and equity. Although circumstances in Costa Rica and the U.S. differ in many ways, the story of this Latin American nation’s success demonstrates what can be achieved with other models of care…more