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      Old, Broken, Disposable: Critical Discourse Analysis of the Public Health Narrative About At-Risk Populations During the COVID-19 Pandemic in Costa Rica



            During February and March, in Costa Rica, as well as in many other countries in Latin America, public health authorities and government officials insisted that there was no reason to panic or to hoard toilet paper, canned food, and disinfectants. Even though, by this time, the World Health Organization had declared that transmission of the viral infection caused by the novel coronavirus (SARS-Cov-2) had reached the level of pandemic, these health authorities and elected officials asserted that most people need not feel afraid. After all, they claimed, the disease caused by this virus appeared to be mild in most cases, that is, except in people older than 70 years of age and people with concomitant health issues such hypertension or diabetes. The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate that the epistemic authority from which the dominant narrative about COVID-19 has emerged in Costa Rica is rooted in extended and normalized discriminatory and oppressive ideologies regarding the value of people and their bodies. This official discourse is an expression of the condescending and paternalistic tradition of medical epistemology in the country. With this paper, therefore, I make a critical contribution to the exploration of the following questions. How does this narrative discourse affect older people, people with disabilities, and people who live with physical circumstances such as hypertension or diabetes? Does this narrative discourse help the general public, fairly and in a dignify manner, to understand the risks of contagion with respect to COVID-19 and the preventative measures required to avoid the infection?


            Author and article information

            International Journal of Critical Diversity Studies
            Pluto Journals
            1 June 2021
            : 4
            : 1 ( doiID: 10.13169/intecritdivestud.4.issue-1 )
            : 34-45
            School of Philosophy, Universidad de Costa Rica, San Jose, Costa Rica
            © 2021 International Journal of Critical Diversity Studies

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            Custom metadata

            Social & Behavioral Sciences
            pandemic,necropolitics,public health,elderly,Disability


            1. This is the term used in the literature, but I find it problematic, because it is pejorative.

            2. The prevalence of high blood pressure in Costa Rica is 36 percent and the associated mortality has been increasing in recent years; 14.9 percent of the population has diabetes and obesity has increased significantly; 66.6 percent of people between 20 to 45 years are overweight or obese (Ministerio de Salud, 2019).

            3. Personal communication in the context of my previous research on obstetric violence in Costa Rica.

            4. Public healthcare system in Costa Rica

            5. For instance, congresswoman María Inés Solís. See: https://www.elmundo.cr/costa-rica/mariaines-solis-pruebas-masivas-y-a-trabajar/ https://www.crhoy.com/nacionales/diputado-sugiere-pruebas-masivas-en-comunidades-por-covid-19/

            6. Wilmer Rodríguez, disability advisor. Instituto Tecnológico de Costa Rica. Personal communication, October 2020.

            7. Guayaquil is a terrible example of what I am referring to: https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/04/03/ecuador-coronavirus-bodies/


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