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60 Seconds with: Fernando Llorca Castro, Minister of Health for Costa Rica

What course did you take at LSE and why?

I took the MSc in Health Policy, Planning and Financing. Financing Health Care (SA407) was a great compulsory course and I chose Pharmaceutical Economics and Policy (SA427), Cost-effectiveness Analysis in Health Care (SA4C4) and Valuing Health (SA4D3) as optional courses due to my special concerns about trying to learn the best ways of how to invest limited resources in a health care system with typical problems of developed countries, like the challenge that we have in Costa Rica.

Finally, I was allowed to take eHealth: Policy, Strategy and Systems (IS415) from another Masters programme because nowadays the need to introduce technology in health care processes is everywhere,  all the time. 

Describe your time here – what were the highs and lows?

It was a wonderful experience. I was already living in London with my wife and kids. I was working as a Registered Medical Practitioner Disability Analyst for the Department for Work and Pensions when I applied and I used to visit the LSE Nursery twice a day before and after classes for dropping or picking up my daughter and son most of the time.

I had the opportunity to work for LSE Health and Social Care and for LSE Enterprise as a research assistant in some projects when finishing my courses and when working on my dissertation too. I really appreciated that.

What are you doing now?

I am the Minister of Health for Costa Rica and have had Stewardship of the Health, Sports and Nutrition Sector, since February 2015.

How has your time at LSE influenced your career?

Research and essay writing skills learned were a good start. To have the opportunity to learn from great experienced professors and to have the chance to share different points of view about many health topics with other students was invaluable.

What do you think the biggest challenges are for the health sector today?

To improve the international epidemiological vigilance network, to be able to develop a truly accessible health care system in every country and to identify best practices of planning and financing health promotion and preventive medicine programmes around the world.

What are your health care priorities for Costa Rica?

Right now we are fighting some infectious disease problems like Dengue, Chikungunya and Zika, without forgetting non communicable diseases challenges like obesity and many of its consequences.

We are also trying to develop a real epidemiological observatory in Costa Rica - not only a system of counting morbidity and mortality; we are trying to institutionalize health technology assessment (HTA) processes to inform how our health care system invests limited resources; and we are trying to develop a system of health accounts (SHA).

What advice would you give current LSE Health students following in your footsteps?

I would suggest to every student to remember that studying at LSE is a privilege that only a few can have. Follow your dreams!