Improving access and provision of pre-travel healthcare for travellers visiting friends and relatives: a review of the evidence



Publication Details

Heywood, A. E. & Zwar, N. (2018). Improving access and provision of pre-travel healthcare for travellers visiting friends and relatives: a review of the evidence. Journal of Travel Medicine, 25 1-8.


Background: Travellers visiting friends and relatives (VFR travellers) in their country of origin are at increased risk of a range of preventable infections. Risks are broadly related to circumstances of travel, risk misconceptions and access to health services. Despite nearly two decades of literature highlighting these increased risks little impact has been made on their risk disparity.

Methods:This review draws on evidence from travel medicine literature, supplemented by evidence from the broader field of immigrant health, and is structured to include strategies that aim to reduce barriers at the patient,provider and health system level.

Results:For the travel medicine provider, tailored risk communication that is cognisant of the unique health beliefs and barriers to travel health for VFR travellers is needed, including enhanced communication through the use of interpreters and supplementary written communication. Primary care providers are uniquely placed to identify future travel plans among immigrant patients, however, greater awareness of VFR traveller risks and training in travel medicine are required. Community health promotion interventions that are culturally appropriate, translated into multiple languages and takes into account the cumulative risk of multiple return visits are key to normalizing travel healthcare seeking behaviours and improving awareness of VFR travel risks. Currently, there are few examples of novel strategies to engage migrant communities in travel health with no formal evaluations of their effectiveness. Best practice includes the use of community-consulted approaches in collaboration with government, primary care and travel medicine.

Conclusions: Multifactorial barriers related to health beliefs and access to health services require a range of strategies and interventions in both reaching and providing advice to VFR travellers. To improve the evidence base,future research should focus on the evaluation of novel strategies that address these barriers and improve access and provision of pre-travel healthcare to VFR travellers.

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