What if…? Mobility and its health risks


In light of a globally mobile workforce, the unique requirements prevailing at a location need to be identified in order to sustain the health of employees and their dependents. The International Corporate Health Leadership Council (ICHLC) – made up of leading global health experts – sees itself as a think tank to help companies oversee the well-being of their workforce abroad. The Council believes that there is significant room for improvement as many companies still do not effectively orient and train their internationally mobile personnel, nor offer first aid training and travel kits. In high-risk environments, both of the latter may make the difference between life and death and must be considered a standard. Below are excerpts of the most relevant recommendations given by ICHLC.

The key actions recommended by the ICHLC council:

People: Orient, train and equip prior to departure
Pre-travel medical information should be provided for all international travellers and assignees (and dependents) as well as training and medical kits for those working in high-risk locations.
Leveraging technology such as online training tools and automated emails can maximise the opportunity to effectively prepare personnel.

  • Recommended Action
  • Prepare employees and their dependents by informing them of predictable health risks and options for mitigation.
  • First aid training and travel kits should be considered for all travelling employees, not just those going to remote locations or areas with limited medical care.

Place: Understand and manage the medical risks where companies operate
A site medical risk assessment and local medical emergency response plans are recommended for high medical risk work locations and populations. Opening a new operation or service site or expanding an existing one requires a clear understanding of the health risks inherent at that location and within the community. This is particularly true in emerging markets or remote site locations.

  • Recommended action
  • All locations should receive an appropriate Site Health Risk Assessment.
    All locations should develop a medical Emergency Response Plan.
    Management should have a methodology to rate the relative health risk at their global locations.

Where local healthcare gaps exist, organisations may need to fill them
On-site clinics and/or company-arranged medical services are recommended where local healthcare resources cannot or will not meet the organisational need. By providing healthcare services, organisations can reduce employee health risk while improving productivity, which is in alignment with business objectives. These local healthcare resources can also form the foundation of a global wellness platform while ensuring work-related medical cases are managed in the most effective manner. Finally, healthcare is a major sustainability issue, and partnering with local health services can achieve corporate social responsibility initiatives.

  • Recommended action
  • Site health assessments should be considered to identify health issues which may put people, operation and even the community at unacceptable risk.
  • Companies may need to augment existing medical services where significant healthcare gaps exist.
  • Business sustainability requires health crisis management plans and the resources to respond effectively
  • A corporate health crisis management plan is recommended which must be maintained, tested and resourced globally.
  • Workforce resiliency and readiness are key objectives as companies plan for the future. These dynamic plans require on-going maintenance and testing to ensure they remain relevant as new emerging health challenges arise.
  • Companies need to develop and maintain plans that deal with health threats to their personnel and business continuity.

Council Commentary
Influenza pandemic plans are now standard and corporations are expanding the scope of these plans to include other global health threats like common infectious diseases, radiation crises and other biological, chemical and natural disaster threats. Malaria remains a major threat to travellers and expatriates, and few companies are addressing the issue adequately. This is an area of great risk and exposure, as malaria is a preventable killer and one of the top ten causes of medical evacuation.


Header image: ©Christina Feyerke