Health Tips Before Your International Move
As you are preparing to move overseas, it can feel like your life is nothing but checklists. You have to pack your belongings, find new accommodations, maybe even a new job. Children need schools, daycare, and pediatricians. And then there are all the last minute things – confirming your travel plans, saying farewell to friends, and visiting your favorite spots for the last time. Your health is likely the last thing on your mind. But it should be at the top of your list! You want to be healthy and happy when you embark on this big adventure. Here are the top five things you should do for your health before moving abroad.
Visit Your Primary Physician Before Moving Abroad
It is so easy to let one year slip by, then maybe two or three, without checking in with your primary care physician for a full physical. But even if you’re healthy, it’s still a good idea to have a physical before you move overseas. You will want a thorough baseline of your health before you move. It is always smart to have fresh blood work and other diagnostics. Speak with your doctor regarding any preventative tests, like mammograms or colonoscopies, that are in your future. They may encourage you to do these screenings before you go, even if you’re a bit early.
If you are not due for your annual check-up, try to make the doctor’s appointment anyway. You can review your travel plans and make arrangements to receive a copy of your file. This is also a good time to have sensitive conversations which might be a bit uncomfortable with a new physician, like discussions about sexual health and mental health.
Finally, don’t forget to ask your primary physician if you can remain as a patient of theirs while you’re away. If you return home in five or ten years, it would be great to still be registered with a family doctor. And if you need healthcare when you return for visits, you can see the doctor who knows you the best.
Get Your Prescriptions Renewed Before Going Overseas
Traveling with prescription medication is complicated. Different countries have different rules and regulations about what medicine is allowed. Drugs such as pain medication, birth control, and even supplements could be tightly controlled. They might even be prohibited in your new country. Make an appointment with your pharmacist before moving abroad to review your current prescriptions. You’ll want to discuss alternatives should your brand name of choice not be available at your destination.
With the support of your primary physician, you can often get an extended prescription for 6, 12, or even 18 months to bring with you abroad. However, you cannot import large quantities of medication, as it is often restricted. You might have to fill out a prescription import form for your destination.
Your pharmacist is an invaluable source of information when it comes to preventative medication for those first few weeks of your trip. They can recommend over the counter products to ease upset stomachs, minimize allergies, and help you cope with pollution and other environmental changes.
Address Lingering Health Concerns
With a huge move on the horizon, it’s easy to put off those non-urgent but lingering health concerns that have been weighing on you for a while. Maybe your doctor has been gently hinting that you could stand to lose a few pounds. Perhaps in the back of your mind, you know that some physical therapy is in order for that mild ankle issue. Maybe a visit with the dentist is long overdue – and the same can be said for the eye doctor. There’s nothing wrong, per se, but you know it will be easier to address things before you have to adjust to a new healthcare system and culture.
You can also tell them about your plans and ask them for advice on finding a new doctor in your new country. They can tell you what kind of training you should expect from someone in their industry. And you never know – maybe they have a long lost classmate who has set up shop in your new home!
A visit with your primary care physician will ensure you are up to date on your routine vaccinations, including tetanus and measles. However, an appointment with a travel medicine physician will likely be necessary for other shots like yellow fever, Dengue fever, and even rabies. Be sure to talk to your doctors about what countries you’ll likely travel to for work and pleasure. Few international citizens stay in just one country – there are global conferences, client meetings, and long weekends away to consider.
Get Health Insurance Before Moving Abroad
Many international citizens are under the impression that health insurance won’t be a big deal because surely all other countries have more affordable care than what they are used to. Others assume, based on the number of times they visit a doctor in a year, that it will be more economical to just pay as you go. Then there are beliefs that countries with universal healthcare will cover the medical expenses of everyone who needs care, resident or not.
In some regards, they aren’t wrong. Paying a la carte for services as you need them is cheaper abroad than it is in the United States. In fact, in many countries, medical appointments cost less than $50. And many countries do offer excellent standards to public healthcare to all permanent residents – expatriates included. However, the situation isn’t always so rosy.
Healthcare costs might be low for routine visits but catastrophically high for more significant concerns. Airlifts and transfers to sophisticated hospitals can cost a small fortune. And that’s before any treatment is administered! Complicating all of this is the fact that public healthcare options can’t compete with private options when it comes to comfort, privacy, wait times, and access to multilingual staff. And that dream that countries with universal healthcare treat anyone who needs it is just that – a dream.
Review this comprehensive global healthcare policy before moving abroad to understand how it will offer you peace of mind and financial protection. A global medical plan will also:
- provide phone support as you need it
- ensure you will be treated in the highest quality facilities
- make it easy to coordinate care with different practitioners
- provide coverage for your family visits back to your home country
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