There has never been a time where people travel more than today. International travel has become convenient so that elderly people and people with chronic diseases also travel extensively. Progress in medical care has helped people with chronic conditions to feel healthy enough for travel. Current practices of travel medicine do however, not meet all medical needs of travelers since they traditionally focus on infectious diseases and the associated vaccines. Counseling before travel rarely takes into account accidents (motor vehicle or leisure) or chronic conditions that may destabilize during travel as a consequence of unusual circumstances and behavior, unstable health conditions, or poor compliance with treatments. Current pre-travel advice does not relate to such risk to travelers, leading to inaccuracies and inefficiencies in clinic counseling and leaving travelers with a diminished ability to protect themselves.
This study is an 18-month partnership between the Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Prevention Institute at University of Zurich, the Travel Clinic network of Zurich and Basel, and the ETH Wearable Computing Lab. We have designed and tested an innovative digital data collection tool (smartphone app) to assess risk estimates of illness and injury for international travelers from Switzerland. We have targeted our study to Thailand, a key tourist destination of Swiss travelers with comparatively good publically available information on health. The proposed study will design and test the feasibility of this new digital tool for data collection. We plan to create a mobile health (mhealth) tool that can be adopted by researchers globally, potentially revolutionizing the counseling given by travel clinics worldwide. This research could improve the efficiency of our travel health system through better-targeted recommendations for prevention and medications, thus reducing disease and saving both money and lives.