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The continued importance of travel health medicine

 Sandra Grieve 14 Jun 2017

Sandra Grieve from the RCN Public Health Forum talks about recent developments in travel health ahead of an RCN conference.

Although travel medicine is a relatively recent area of practice, it is a dynamic one that never stands still and neither should we. Education, for both health care professionals and travellers, is key and so it was great to see travel medicine featured as part of the recent series of seminars on public health nursing held as part of the RCN Centenary celebrations.

While we’ve come a long way since the days of colonial nursing pioneers, experiences of whom were featured in the seminar “Nursing the Tropics”, travel health is in some ways more important than ever before. In spite of global instability, the number of people travelling abroad from the UK continues to rise. As modes of transport develop, larger numbers of people are able to travel further and more easily than ever before.

Early travellers faced diseases they’d never encountered and little was known about prevention or treatment whereas, with increased knowledge and communication today, travellers are more aware of – and better prepared for – communicable diseases risks overseas. However, there are still many risk factors: a vaccine for Malaria remains elusive; Dengue fever, Zika virus and Chikunguya are increasing in countries frequented by British travellers; and the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa was a tragic reminder of the still omnipresent dangers of tropical disease. On top of this, the mass movement of people has increased the potential for cross-country contamination.

This makes the NHS announcement to save £400m per year on medicines of “low clinical value” (travel vaccines being included) of particular concern. In travel health practice we emphasise that advice goes beyond vaccines but there’s no denying the vital role they play in fighting the spread of diseases globally. Travel health isn’t a luxury in today’s society, it’s a necessity and is vital in ensuring our nation’s health, not only abroad but here in the UK as well.

The RCN has a proud history of supporting education for health professionals in the field of travel medicine. On 24 June 2017, the RCN’s Public Health Forum is holding a joint conference with the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) in London. Find out more.

Page last updated - 05/09/2018