Category Archives: Global Medical Alert

Traffic accidents threat to expats

Road accidents are one of the major risks for expats abroad and significantly impact on general expat health, being one of the top five causes of medical evacuations. According to a World Health Organisation (WHO) study, 1.24 million people were killed on the world’s roads in 2010 writes

The Global status report on road safety 2013 presents information on road safety in 182 countries, accounting for 99% of the world’s population. Road accidents are the leading cause of death among young people aged 15-29 globally.

Middle-income countries have been hardest hit by rising road traffic accidents, these are emerging nations such as the BRICs and several Asian countries.

In these developing countries rapid access to healthcare can be a challenge. Something expats need to consider when choosing an international health insurance policy is whether they have medical evacuation included.

The study found only 28 countries, equating to 7 percent of the global population, have laws on five key risk factors: drink-driving, speeding, use of crash helmets, seatbelts and child restraints. However, enforcement of these rules, even in countries with existing legislation, is inadequate.

Health insurance for expatriates is a complicated industry, one which is constantly shifting. In Europe the impact of the economic crisis on health services has meant several countries have restricted access to expats and business travellers.

This comes at a time when business travel is increasing, despite persistent financial woes across much of the developed world. According to data from Euromonitor International, business travel has been steadily increasing to 212 million international arrivals in 2012.

With this increase in business travel, the constantly changing landscape of international health insurance and many countries tightening healthcare rules for expats, companies need to ensure they provide emergency evacuation coverage as part of their employee medical insurance package.

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Fair people risk skin cancer by thinking their skin is darker

One of the benefits of expat life is improved weather, especially for northern Europeans. We all know a little sunshine is good for us, and even recommended. However, many people are still unaware of the risks they are taking in the sun writes

A recent survey shows that while many Europeans have traditionally fair skin, nearly half (48%) think their skin is darker than it is in reality. This could mean people don’t appreciate the damage they are doing when exposing their skin to the sun, especially in countries where it tends to be stronger.

With public awareness of skin cancer at an all time high, why are skin cancer rates still growing? One reason may be related to how we see our skin, thinking it’s darker than it is causes us to stay in the sun longer than we should.

The survey also discovered the desire for a tan is increasing, with 62 percent of people questioned revealing they think a tan is attractive, up from 56 percent five years ago. Over three quarters (80%) of us never check for signs of skin cancer, with a shocking 69 percent admitting they didn’t know what to look for.

What to look out for

Many of us have dark patches or raised moles on our skin, while these usually remain harmless it is important to recognise any changes.

Cancer Research UK recommends checking moles following the ABCD rule. If you notice any of these signs then see your doctor:

  • Asymmetry – the two halves of your mole don’t look the same
  • Border – the edges of the mole are irregular
  • Colour – your moles isn’t all the same colour, with more than one shade.
  • Diameter – your mole is more than 6mm wide.

You should also look out for a new growth or sore that won’t heal; a spot, mole or sore that itches or hurts; and a mole or growth that bleeds, crusts or scabs.

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What health benefits should expat workers expect to receive?

When moving abroad expats are confronted with all manner of things, one of which is ensuring they have some form of health insurance. For expatriate workers companies will often provide benefits, including international health insurance.

Employee Benefits has compiled some important information concerning common health benefits offered to expats to give you an idea of what to expect. The recent survey of 376 HR and benefits professionals revealed the most frequently offered health benefit is private medical insurance (PMI), offered in 33% of cases.

The research also discovered that international employees are often offered life assurance/death in service benefits too (28%), as well as PMI for employees’ dependants (27%) and employee assistance programmes (22%).

Employee benefits organised the survey so that the overall use of expatriate healthcare benefits was reviewed across the entire sample of respondents. This is displayed in the table below, taken from Employee Benefits’ original report.

Referring to PMI’s position as the primary health benefit for expats, this comes as no surprise because many countries do not have an equivalent to the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), and so expats require comprehensive insurance to cover any medical bills.

In addition, the survey compared this year’s results with those gathered in 2010, 2011 and 2012. Between 2011 and 2012, the percentage of respondents offering PMI for expat employees dropped from 83% to 70%, having increased from 76% to 83% between 2010 and 2011. Furthermore, the number of companies with no offer of health benefits doubled between 2011 and 2012 from 6% to 12%, but this percentage has fallen to 9% over the course of the past year.

 The comparison conveys a considerable change, with more companies reducing the benefits they do offer, possibly in order to adapt to the current economic situation. Further illustrated by the survey, which found 78% of companies say cost is a factor in which benefits they buy or continue to offer to employees abroad.

An important point worth noting is that expatriate PMI will allow those expats who are not offered the level of medical service overseas they are used to receiving at home to seek care in other countries or return home for treatment.

In light of the research, it is positive to see the variety of health benefits frequently offered to overseas employees. Currently, with many countries cutting or restricting expat access to healthcare, companies are under more pressure to provide expat health benefits to ensure that their foreign workforce is fully covered. Cutting out benefits entirely is not really an option if an organisation wishes to remain an attractive employer and to be seen as providing duty of care.

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Beach Safety Tips

We’re at the peak of summer, which means one thing for many of us: relaxing trips to the beach. But as carefree as a day or vacation at the beach might be, it’s still important to take extra safety precautions to ensure a fun time throughout your entire stay writes the

Decrease your chances of summer risks that range from water-related injuries to melanoma. Here’s how to protect yourself and your loved ones from danger at the beach:

  • Learn How to Swim: Knowing how to swim is the best way to protect yourself and your kids in the water; your chances of drowning are almost five times greater if you don’t know how to swim. While it’s best to learn at an early age, it’s never too late to take swimming classes.
  • Wear a Lifejacket if Necessary: Young children and those who don’t know how to swim should always wear a lifejacket when in or around water, especially if they’re on a boat.
  • Wear Plenty of Sunscreen: Too much sun exposure is bad for your body, so avoid getting sunburn and skin cancer by applying broad spectrum sunscreen of 15 SPF or higher, or by wearing clothing that covers your skin. Additionally, no sunscreen is water or sweat-proof, and should be applied every two hours.
  • Pay Attention to Flags and Signs: Warning signs might inform you of strong rip currents, and flags often indicate designated swimming areas with lifeguards on duty. Be sure to look for these flags and read all beach warnings prior to heading into the water. If you’re not sure what something means, ask a lifeguard.
  • Understand Rip Currents: If you’ve ever gone to the beach and mysteriously ended up a lot further away from the shore than you wanted to be, you probably experienced a rip current. These concentrated rivers of water that move offshore can cause people to drift far away from the beach. To get out of a rip current, do not try to swim directly back to shore. Instead, swim parallel to the shore until you can feel the current relax. Then you can swim safely back to the sandy beach. Also, be sure to stay at least 100 feet away from piers and jetties, since rip currents are very common in these areas.
  • Don’t Dive Into Unknown Water: Enter water feet first to avoid serious lifelong injuries that can result from accidentally diving into shallow or rocky waters. Check for depth and any other obstructions in the water that may pose a potential danger to your safety.
  • Drink Plenty of Water: The sun can dehydrate your body quickly, so be sure to drink lots of water at the beach. Stay away from caffeine and alcohol, as these can cause further dehydration.
  • Swim Near a Lifeguard: Reduce your chances of drowning by swimming during the day where a lifeguard is present.



Eating Healthy in the Airport: An Infographic

The healthy thinkers at Purple Parking, a company that provides airport parking services in the UK, have created this visual guide to help you eat healthily at the airport. It’s perfect for frequent fliers who travel for business or pleasure.

Purple Parking Guide to Healthy Eating at Airports infographic

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Safety Tips for Traveling to a Developing Country

Whether you’re going on vacation or your first voluntourism trip, traveling to a developing country requires a lot of extra preparation. Not only will you need to pack additional items, but you’ll also need to do some research and mentally prepare yourself for your destination—especially if you’ve never been there before writes

While immersing yourself into different cultures and lifestyles can be a truly rewarding experience, it’s still important to follow standard safety practices. Here are some ways to have a great, healthy trip:

Before Your Trip

  • Research: In addition to learning more about the local culture, customs and taboos, you’ll also want to look into any recent events or news going on in the area. If there’s any civil unrest, you should know about it beforehand and check to see if your government has posted any travel warnings. Also, if you plan on bringing any type of rechargeable electronics, find out in advance what the voltage and plug configurations are in the area—you might need to purchase an adapter.
  • Get Necessary Vaccines/Medications: Many places around the world won’t even let you into the country without proper proof of vaccinations. Find out if the place you’re traveling to requires any, and plan to get them within two months of your trip. In some countries, you may need to bring certain medication(s) to prevent diseases, such as malaria.
  • Learn Local Phrases: Your native language may not be spoken in these countries, so be sure to learn some important phrases in advance. You should also bring a translation dictionary, if possible.
  • Pack Smart: In addition to your standard luggage items, you may need the following: a luggage lock, flashlight, map, toilet paper, snacks, bed sheet, towel, padlock, mosquito net, multivitamins, bottled water, anti-diarrheal medicine and a first aid kit. Also, also consider leaving valuables, such as a cameras, at home unless they are absolutely necessary.

When You Arrive

  • Have a Plan: Tourists visiting underdeveloped countries are often swarmed by locals with offers for hotel rooms or taxi services, especially if they see you looking through guidebooks and pamphlets. Having a game plan in advance helps you appear as though you know what you’re doing. If you need a ride to your hotel from an airport, opt for an airport bus or a taxi with a license and meter.

During Your Trip

  • Eat and Drink Cautiously: Water quality may not be up to par with what you have at home. Only drink water from bottles that are sealed, unless you’ve confirmed that the water is safe to drink. Don’t eat fresh produce, such as salads, at local restaurants since they are probably washed in unclean water. Have protein bars on hand as a back up.
  • Be Prepared: As a general rule of thumb, avoid giving money to strangers or items to children, such as candy or clothing. If you’d like to donate something, give items directly to the parents, teachers, schools, or community leaders. Also, be ready to practice fair bargaining. Although many taxi drivers and market vendors will be aggressive with their sales tactics, they expect you to negotiate fairly.
  • Transportation: Since the transportation infrastructure in most of these countries is often weak, they can be very dangerous. The Association for Safe Internal Road Travel (ASIRT) offers these tips to help you travel safely around your destination.


Dealing With Extreme Temperatures

When it comes to traveling to places that are either ridiculously hot or obscenely cold, even the most seasoned traveler can find himself in harm’s way. Whether you’re going on an Antarctic expedition or will be working on a farm in Ecuador, you should always prepare in advance for the weather you’re going to face and learn how to handle emergency medical situations.

So if you’re planning on spending a lot of time in any type of extreme weather, here are some tips to help you get ready writes the

Hot Weather While travelers spending most of their time by the beach or taking short walking tours are at minimal risk for heat illness, activities that exert a lot of energy, such as strenuous hiking and biking, can have a detrimental effect on the body. Heat illnesses depend on three things: environmental conditions, intensity of exercise, and your hydration level.

Before You Go Acclimatization is key for getting your body ready to handle the heat. Exercise one to two hours a day in hot weather ten days prior to your trip. If you’re unable to do so, make sure you limit the intensity and duration of your vacation activity to 30-90 minute periods and take breaks in between. Wear lightweight, loose, and light-colored clothes to aid air circulation and optimize protection from the sun. Additionally, fluids will be vital to staying healthy and preventing illness. Be sure to drink plenty of water, sports drinks, and have salty snacks on standby. And as strange as this may sound, a good rule of thumb for monitoring your fluid needs is to check your urine volume and color; if it’s dark, you need to hydrate.

It’s also a good idea to learn about common heat disorders, such as heat exhaustion and cramps, and ways to treat them.

Cold Weather While many of us think conditions similar to Mt. Everest or the icy waters surrounding the Titanic are likely to induce cold-related injuries, environments with temperatures of around 50° F have been known to produce hypothermia — really! That said, we’ll concede that severe hypothermia is rare among travelers, and it often occurs during emergency situations, such as when someone gets lost in a storm, or if a small boat were to overturn in cold water.

Before You Go Research your destination spot and look for any travel advisories. Find out what is the best clothing and equipment required for your trip, and bring plenty of warm layers and thick socks. Avoid traveling on ice-covered roads and bridges. If you’ll be traveling near water, bring a flotation device, learn self-rescue tips, and how to right an overturned boat. The hypothermia caused by falling into cold water can leave you unable to swim within 30 minutes to an hour.

Also, familiarize yourself with how to handle cold-related injuries such as frostbite and hypothermia.

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The “silent crisis” of hepatitis in Asia-Pacific

Hepatitis may not command the same publicity as HIV or AIDS, but it kills almost as many people each year reports

About 1.4 million people die annually from liver cancer linked to the five types of hepatitis, according to data from the Global Burden of Disease Study. Of these deaths, over a million occur in the Asia-Pacific region.

This is three times the number of people dying from HIV/AIDS each year and eight times the number of malaria deaths in the same region.

Coalition for the Eradication of Viral Hepatitis in Asia-Pacific (CEVHAP) chair and co-founder Ding-Shinn Chen told Devex, “While malaria is rightly considered an African emergency, a silent crisis is occurring in Asia-Pacific as a result of viral hepatitis.”

Hepatitis prevention for expats and travellers

In the U.S., hepatitis A is the most common vaccine-preventable illness acquired during travel. Expats and people visiting regions where the virus is common should receive the vaccine.

The hepatitis A vaccine protects against 95% of cases and, when administered correctly, immunity lasts at least 15 years. If you are moving to Africa, the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent or South America see your doctor at least 3 weeks before travelling. The vaccine should be followed up with a booster six to 12 months after the first dose.

A vaccine also exists for hepatitis B, which is administered in two or three doses. The first two provide complete protection, with the idea of the third being to prolong protection. If you’re travelling to an area with a high rate of hepatitis B you need to see your doctor six weeks before leaving.

There is currently no vaccine for hepatitis C, though several are under development.

Chen called for reforms in addressing the killer disease in the areas of improving available resources, extending existing HIV/AIDS frameworks to viral hepatitis, and increasing access to medicines, which remains a major challenge in developing countries

Travellers’ biggest fear is “ending up in a foreign hospital”

As the British summer gets off to a disappointing start, people turn their thoughts to beaches and sunshine, with Spain still being a top destination for British holidaymakers.

According to an independent survey, British travellers’ greatest fear when venturing abroad is falling ill and having to go to a foreign hospital. The report, from telephone interpreter service, i-interpret4u, asked 2,000 holidaymakers what they were most concerned about when going abroad writes Bryony Ashcroft of

The results showed the majority (83%) of respondents worry about going abroad, leaving only a small proportion seemingly at ease with the idea. While being ill and having to make use of foreign health facilities was people’s biggest worry, the second most cited fear is a lost passport, followed by losing luggage.

Thousands of pieces of luggage are lost or misplaced every year, with numbers peaking in the summer months. Always follow procedure and report a missing suitcase before you leave the airport to avoid delays with any compensation later.

No excuse for travelling without insurance

The results also showed women are almost twice as likely as men to worry about travelling abroad. The third biggest fear for women is getting mugged or attacked on holiday.

A large proportion (85%) of people don’t worry about being able to speak the language when they go abroad. This does make us wonder, if more people knew the language basics when they went abroad, would some of the fear go out of having to use foreign hospitals?

i-interpret4u Director Michael French told Wanderlust magazine, “Travellers will often think that it can’t happen to them; sadly it does and ensuring you have taken out adequate, not the cheapest travel insurance is of course important – and for less than the cost of a bottle of good wine, there’s no real excuse for travelling uncovered.”

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Type 2 diabetes now “common” in under 40s

There has been a sharp rise in cases of type 2 diabetes in people under 40 over the past 20 years say researchers. The disease can now be considered “common” in this age group in the UK, according to a lead researcher writes .

Research by Cardiff University shows that in 1991 there were some 150 cases of the condition per 100,000 people aged under 40, which has risen by around 270% in 20 years to reach 500 cases per 100,000 people, the BBC reports.

It seems the average age at which people develop the disease is also falling: the percentage of people under 40 with the disease has risen from 5 to 12 percent.

Professor Craig Currie, of Cardiff University’s School of Medicine and leader of the research said the rise will “undoubtedly place an increasing burden on healthcare resources and result in poorer quality of life”.

He added that factors such as changes to diet, obesity and family history are factors in the rise in cases among younger adults.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), type 2 diabetes comprises 90 percent of the total diabetes cases around the world. It is largely the result of being overweight and not doing enough exercise.

It’s not just the UK which is affected, globally the number of diabetes 2 cases rose from 30 million in 1985 to 285 million in 2010. Changes to lifestyle, growing obesity rates and poor diets are thought to be to blame among those with a genetic predisposition to the illness.

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