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International child health for globally mobile families

In today’s increasingly globalised world, the exciting prospect of living and working in a different country has become a commonplace reality for many.

The number of employees sent on assignment abroad has risen by 25% over the last decade and is projected to increase a further 50% by 2020, making international relocation a distinct possibility in any career.

While living and working in a new country can bring excitement and adventure, it also creates a range of unique challenges. For the hundreds of thousands of expats moving with a spouse or young family, there are very real worries about how their financial, emotional and physical wellbeing may be affected.

It’s important to acknowledge these concerns, but you shouldn’t let them put you off your great adventure. With a little careful planning and the right expert advice, becoming part of the ever-growing community of globally mobile families could be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life.

Health challenges for globally mobile families

No one likes to think about the worst happening. If you’re considering emigrating with young children, however, it’s important to consider the potential health issues that could arise.

Moving country means moving away from your family doctor (also known as a general practitioner, or GP). If you’ve been to the same trusted medical professional ever since your children were born, the idea of making health care decisions without them could be daunting. But don’t worry, with the right advice and a little forward planning, it’s possible to find the health care you need anywhere around the world.

Many children take a while to adjust to a new environment. It’s usual for there to be some teething problems — some of which could have a health impact. A change of location, being apart from familiar friends and family, and the pressures of making new connections at nursery or school can all take their toll on children. Stay alert for signs of stress and anxiety and be aware that these can make certain health conditions worse.

As with every element of your move, it helps to be prepared. You should spend some time thinking about the potential impact the move may have on your children. Consider any systems you need to put in place to avoid any negative impact. Once you have done so, it’s a good idea to sit down with your children and discuss any anxieties they might have. Putting their minds at rest by telling them what you have already done, or will do, to take care of any issues they mention is a really positive move.

Understanding child health care needs around the world

Once you’ve thought about the common health care challenges faced by all global families, it’s also important to consider any specific challenges you may face in your new location. For example, countries each have their own health care systems, and approaches to care, such as paediatrics, can vary greatly.

Many countries around the world now have regulations in place around mandatory private medical insurance before residence or work permits will be issued. In Dubai, for instance, in 2016, the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) introduced a law requiring all Dubai residents to obtain private medical insurance.

In many countries, routine vaccination is common for a range of conditions. However, you might still find that there are specific local variations that you should be aware of. In the U.S. and Australia, for example, the chicken pox vaccine is commonly administered. But this is not the case in the U.K.

It can be helpful to obtain an up-to-date vaccination record from your family doctor before you move. This will help you work out what vaccinations you and your family might want, or need, before emigrating.

Whether you’re moving to a large city or to the countryside, you will also need to think about how your new lifestyle could affect certain respiratory conditions. Asthma, for example, is a common condition all over the world. There are many different causes, not all of which are tied to increasing urban pollution. What is clear, however, is that the condition can be triggered or worsened by the kind of air pollution you will find in many of the world’s major cities.

Once again, you should gain as much information as you can about managing the condition in your new location. This will help reassure you and your family that you have the help and advice you need before you move.  

You may also want to consider how your child’s diet could be affected by moving to another country. Are there any foods that are normal in the local diet that they may be allergic to? How will you balance your desire for them to experience new tastes and flavours with the potential health impact of dietary changes? As the differing childhood obesity rates around the world demonstrate, there may well be a connection between a country’s diet and the health of its children. Make sure that you research and understand these specific factors before you travel.

Planning your move

As these brief examples show, becoming a globally mobile family can raise a lot of questions about how you will take care of the medical needs of your family. As with all elements of your move, it’s crucial to get expert advice before you travel.

At Aetna International, our pre-trip planning service can help you to coordinate your health care in advance — discussing and creating a health and wellbeing strategy before you need to make use of it. This includes assessing health care needs, recommending specialists, and sharing information on how to manage a particular illness or condition. All of this is done in conjunction with specialist advisors, who are familiar with the health care environment in your destination country. This ensures that the advice you receive is as relevant and up-to-date as possible.

Our Care and Response Excellence (CARE) team can also advise you whether medication is available in the destination country, and help you to source alternatives if required — ensuring uninterrupted treatment of chronic conditions.

Getting the treatment you need

With the help of a bit of homework and a little expert advice, you can be pretty sure of a smooth move. But what if something happens once you’ve settled into your new home? If a medical problem arises, you need to make sure that you know how to seek the appropriate help.

Whatever the situation, Aetna International’s expert help can get the right treatment for your child as quickly as possible. Our CARE team clinicians will assess the situation, and discuss the needs of the child with the attending doctor and the child’s family or guardians. Once the best course of treatment has been agreed by all parties, medical care will take place in one of the many high quality health care facilities within our international network.

We always aim to ensure our members get high quality treatment. If a local facility can’t address our member’s needs, we’ll even arrange evacuation of the patient for treatment in a quality facility elsewhere.

Making global mobility an adventure — not a crisis

There’s no doubt that moving abroad with a young family can create any number of challenges — including the need to plan a new health care regime for your children. But it’s important not to be put off by the additional homework required. Thinking about your family’s needs — and tracking down useful, relevant advice on how to meet them — will leave you and your children free to enjoy a happy and healthy life in your new home.

For information about our private medical insurance plans or the health and well-being support available, please contact one of our expert sales consultants.  

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