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Open Access Research article

Metabolic control in a nationally representative diabetic elderly sample in Costa Rica: patients at community health centers vs. patients at other health care settings

Gilbert Brenes-Camacho12* and Luis Rosero-Bixby2

Author affiliations

1 Center for Demography and Ecology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA

2 Centro Centroamericano de Poblacion, University of Costa Rica, Costa Rica

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Citation and License

BMC International Health and Human Rights 2008, 8:5  doi:10.1186/1472-698X-8-5

Published: 14 May 2008



Costa Rica, like other developing countries, is experiencing an increasing burden of chronic conditions such as diabetes mellitus (DM), especially among its elderly population. This article has two goals: (1) to assess the level of metabolic control among the diabetic population age ≥ 60 years old in Costa Rica, and (2) to test whether diabetic elderly patients of community health centers differ from patients in other health care settings in terms of the level of metabolic control.


Data come from the project CRELES, a nationally representative study of people aged 60 and over in Costa Rica. This article analyzes a subsample of 542 participants in CRELES with self-reported diagnosis of diabetes mellitus. Odds ratios of poor levels of metabolic control at different health care settings are computed using logistic regressions.


Lack of metabolic control among elderly diabetic population in Costa Rica is described as follows: 37% have glycated hemoglobin ≥ 7%; 78% have systolic blood pressure ≥ 130 mmHg; 66% have diastolic blood pressure ≥ 80 mmHg; 48% have triglycerides ≥ 150 mg/dl; 78% have LDL ≥ 100 mg/dl; 70% have HDL ≤ 40 mg/dl. Elevated levels of triglycerides and LDL were higher in patients of community health centers than in patients of other clinical settings. There were no statistical differences in the other metabolic control indicators across health care settings.


Levels of metabolic control among elderly population with DM in Costa Rica are not that different from those observed in industrialized countries. Elevated levels of triglycerides and LDL at community health centers may indicate problems of dyslipidemia treatment among diabetic patients; these problems are not observed in other health care settings. The Costa Rican health care system should address this problem, given that community health centers constitute a means of democratizing access to primary health care to underserved and poor areas.