Increasing visits to a traveler health clinic: an author Q+A

Tropical Diseases, Travel Medicine and Vaccines recently published its first articles and in this Q+A, we asked co-author of one of the publications, Ibrahim Shady, more about their research into traveler health clinic visits.

It is estimated that 30-60% of travelers will experience illness while they are on holiday. So with this at such a high rate, what are people doing to prevent the risk, if anything?

An article published by Shady et al., aims to understand this in The State of Kuwait, a country with a total population of 3.6 million, of which only an estimated 700 individuals visit the traveler health clinic each year. This may be because Kuwait only has one traveler health clinic in the middle of Kuwait City.

Despite efforts to raise awareness of risks related to international travel, visits to the traveler health clinic remain to be fairly low and understanding the factors that prevent this increasing is important.

Here, co-author Ibrahim Shady explains more about what they think should be done in Kuwait to increase traveler health clinic visits.

How important is it for an individual to visit a travel clinic prior to traveling?

It is very important for individuals to visit a traveler clinic prior to heading off on their journey minimally 2-4 weeks before travel. This is because travelers usually as the majority of them go to south and west Africa and this area had a lot of hazards namely arthropod born Infections ( Yellow Fever and Malaria) also, this area includes countries that lie in the meningitic built so, it is very important to take the advantage of pre travel consultation and prophylaxis.

Why is this important to investigate?

Investigating the issue of pre-travel consultation and prophylaxis will give us an idea about who are the most frequent travelers to visit a traveler health clinic. In addition, it will also tell us about the reasons for visiting the health clinic and from that information we can analyze and determine the reasons behind non welling to visit it.

This could help us in planning programs and plans to increase the awareness of public about the hazards associated with travel and ways to prevent it.

Why do you think so few people visit a travel clinic prior to traveling?

I think few people visiting the travel clinic might be caused by the low awareness of the public about the importance of pre-travel consultation and prophylaxis.

What did you find were the main factors affecting this?

The main factors behind this could be one of three problems. Firstly, the public has lower health awareness than other countries. Secondly, there is only one traveler health clinic in the whole country, therefore people may find it difficult to get to the clinic in the first place, particularly if it is a long journey. And lastly, the clinic itself is not open every day, and when it is open, the working hours are limited.

How could this situation be improved?

This could be overcome by planning health education programs to increase the awareness and these programs. This must be communicated all over the country and throughout the whole year, particularly as there are two peaks in the volume of travelers going to the clinic, one during the summer months and the other during the midterm vacations of schools and universities.

This could also be overcome by increasing the number of traveler health clinics in the country. Especially to ensure these are geographically distributed evenly, allowing those that cannot get there easily, or have too far to travel to be able to go to a clinic if they need to.

And finally, the health clinics availability should be changed so that it is open 24/7. Although this will be challenging, I think it is something that is necessary for travelers to be able to attend as and when they need.

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