Juliane Kause, Chief Medical Officer, at Anvil Group, discussed the basics of occupational travel health in individuals travelling for pleasure and those travelling for business. She spoke about the effects of health on work and work on health, and highlighted how the pandemic has negatively affected people’s mental health, triggering issues such as depression and anxiety. She explained that the number of staff being signed off work due to mental health issues has dramatically increased since the pandemic started.
Kause then talked about the importance of public risk assessments and providing travellers with a health risk assessment for the destination they plan to travel to. She discussed the difference between risks faced by business travellers and leisure travellers, pointing out that currently, business travel accounts for 14 per cent of all travel. Of those travelling, a larger percentage are male, and tend to travel for shorter durations than those going on holiday.
Kause explained that psychological disorders, gastroenteritis, and respiratory illnesses are the three-most-common issues causing travellers to claim on travel insurance. Travellers’ diarrhoea as a travel-related infection causes the highest number of hospitalisations amongst business travellers, whilst the most-frequent reasons for repatriation in travellers are traffic accidents, murders and drowning, she added.
Kause also spoke about how the stress of travelling exacerbates pre-existing conditions such as psychological disorders. This has been exaggerated even further in the current Covid-19 situation, she said, where travel is even more complicated and stressful with all the extra rules and documentation that has to be provided.
She highlighted the findings of a study investigating death amongst Scottish travellers. The results showed that cardiovascular disease accounted for the largest number of deaths (68 per cent), followed by injury (21 per cent), followed by infection (four per cent).
When discussing solutions, Kause stressed that risk assessment is key. She said that the main factors that must be considered when assessing whether an individual is physically fit to travel are their current health status, past medical history, past travel history and any current medication they take.
She explained that providing support for travellers and promoting honesty is vital. Some business travellers are embarrassed about admitting they have a condition as they fear they will not be able to travel. This can cause them to hide or leave behind vital medication, so they do not get discovered, enhancing the problem. “Being aware of physical problems can promote successful outcomes of business travel by being able to properly plan and adapt according to the individual,” she summarised.
She spoke about the different types of hazards that certain groups of travellers, pointing out that leisure travellers are more at risk from hazards at the destination, while business travellers are more likely to encounter problems in transit.
She described how ‘Covid-19 has redefined the definition of essential business travel’, and how information, education and training should be used as tools in risk reduction for the business travel industry. She concluded that corporate companies should provide framework for employees to consider the needs of travellers.