Ignorance Abroad: New Study Reveals Many Travelers Are Unprepared for Health Risks2 min read
We don’t need more motivation to keep blogging in 2011, but we got a jolt when we came across a recent survey of international travelers published in The Journal of Travel Medicine (Volume 17, Issue 6, pages 387-391, November/December 2010). Researchers surveyed over 1,200 international airline passengers in Boston’s Logan Airport to gauge their “Pre-travel Health Advice Behavior”. The results speak volumes about our mission here at HTB.
The study limited the survey to those traveling to low or low-middle income countries, a/k/a the developing world, where dangerous infectious diseases abound. Participants cited vacation, visiting friends and family, business and education as their primary reasons for traveling. The major findings underscore why we take our blogging seriously:
- Overall, 44% reported not seeking any health advice prior to traveling. Researchers cite this statistic as consistent with a similar survey of passengers at Kennedy airport in which 64% did not seek any pre-travel advice
- 21% reported verifying that their immunizations were up-to-date
- 36% carried a prescription medication for traveler’s diarrhea
- Of those traveling to countries where malaria is endemic, a scant 20% reported carrying a prescription anti-malarial drug
- The unprepared group is skewed toward passengers who are foreign-born, visiting friends or family, traveling for less than 14 days or vacationing
These findings dovetail with anecdotal evidence we amass at HTH Worldwide, where we’ve encountered entire study abroad groups who disembark in Africa before realizing that malaria is an endemic risk.
Those who did seek advice favored the Internet, their primary care physician or a travel medicine specialist. There was far less reliance on the travel guides, travel agents, employers or even the Centers for Disease Control.
From a public health perspective, the survey results suggest that travelers’ high degree of indifference to the risks help fuel the diffusion of infectious agents around the world. From our travel health viewpoint, it’s clear travelers are running unnecessary risks and likely paying the price on a regular basis. Perhaps we should all make a New Year’s resolution to alert friends and family to do their homework before they board a flight to a risky destination.
Photo by tropical.pete