When on assignment, an employee’s exposure to risks varies according to the location and the duration of the stay. Health related threats may be connected to specific issues such as prolonged periods in high-risk, remote or rural areas of developing countries. In this setting, employees face significant and continuous health risks, for example; infectious diseases, extreme climates, unsafe or poor quality food and water, and sexually transmitted infections/diseases. A number of these environment-specific risks can exacerbate low-grade medical problems, which would otherwise not be a problem in developed areas.
All travelling employees may face difficulties and challenges when abroad. Effective and focused prevention policies are therefore needed to ensure that risks associated with employees’ missions are mitigated. The health and wellbeing of international assignees and business travellers is the responsibility of the employer. There is a need to have clear organisational policies and strategies in place that are aimed at reducing any risks and promoting the health of employees abroad. These include defined selection criteria, preparing and educating international assignees on field conditions, enforcing preventive measures prior to departure – including immunisation – and practices to be followed during posting such as malaria prophylaxis, anti-vector protection, road safety, water and food precautions, safe sex, and how to handle stress.