This bit should probably be entitled “Expat Healthcare Future Proofing ” because that is what we are trying to do here. The healthier you stay, the better your relocation experience will be.
Timeline Cheat Sheet
- Any routine tests or treatment that would otherwise be due in the first 3-6 months of your assignment.
- Order supplies of prescription medication for existing conditions.
- Request prescriptions for medications necessary for leisure travel from your new home.
- Stock up on preferred brands of personal care items that are not available in your host location.
- Schedule any appointments, repeat prescriptions or restocking visits that require a visit home to coincide with vacation, school holidays etc.
Your most important task is to schedule recommended immunizations, treatments and screenings for both preventive healthcare and preexisting conditions. As part of Your Current Health, you should have a list of recommended / required immunizations for your new location, and you may have been organized and already scheduled them.
You will also find that many require boosters during your time away, so check to see whether those are readily available there, or if you need to take supplies with you. While many medications are available globally, some are not, and counterfeit drugs are a problem in some countries. If a medication is essential for your ongoing health, order enough supplies to last until you find a reputable source locally.
Please believe me when I say that once you arrive in your new location, you will have a huge list of things to get done, the pressure of a new work/life role, and not a great deal of help. So make it easier on yourself; identify which check-ups, tests etc. will be due within the first three to six months of your assignment, and get as many as possible done before you go.
If you plan to do any traveling from your new location, investigate what medical precautions are required and get any immunizations, healthcare, drugs and supplies from your doctors while you are getting all the essential stuff done.
It’s a lot easier to drop in ‘and I’m planning on traveling to/will need/will not be able to get” when you are sitting in your hometown doctors office (or going through your company medical) than on a Friday afternoon when you are staring at a tropical diseases poster in an airport on your way to a weekend in Dubai..
Stock up on essential home country healthcare. It may seem strange to include on a timeline, but if you know that you are going to need specific treatments, check-ups or prescriptions that require seeing a specialist outside of your host location, you need to include these in your timeline so that your home visits / vacation / school holidays coincide with the dates .
The more mundane include first aid items, antibiotics and medications that you may need but may have difficulty getting overseas (including birth control – not all are distributed worldwide).
Over the counter drugs such as Tylenol, Nurofen and Beechams (along with many, many others) etc are not universally available, so if you have any particular preferences or sensitivities, take extra with your household goods, and if you have allergies, you might want to take brands that you know are not problematic.
My daughter, for instance, has an extreme sensitivity to some sun products, so we take large amounts of a sunscreen that we know doesn’t cause irritation; the same might apply to you for soaps, shampoos, detergents, skin care or even cosmetics.
Especially in Asia and Africa, brands cater to local needs, and so if you have Scandinavian or Scottish ancestry, you’re going to have to hunt harder (and pay a great deal more) for products for your skin type. And the same applies for those traveling in the opposite direction – while big cities cater to a cosmopolitan mix of health and beauty needs, as you get more rural, you will have difficulty finding the brands or products that you favor.
So start making your list. And checking it twice, as the song goes.
Photo of AZMU nurses and physicians on camels in Egypt en route to Palestine in July 1918 courtesy of cjh.org