Research Topic

Global Health and Medical Travel

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This Research Topic on global access to health care for medical travellers intends to engage a range of stakeholders to establish better evidence for health policy. An interdisciplinary edition will combine work from psychology, public health, economics and international development for the benefit of global ...

This Research Topic on global access to health care for medical travellers intends to engage a range of stakeholders to establish better evidence for health policy. An interdisciplinary edition will combine work from psychology, public health, economics and international development for the benefit of global health policies and will address the absence of consistent evidence. It intends to cover a broad number of topics that will create a starting point for more robust evidence on medical travel, engaging senior academics and early career researchers in line with Frontiers’ aims, as well as linking to key themes outlined by Prof Joav Merrick regarding global contributions to public health.

Medical travel refers to situations where patients leave their home country and travel to another with the purpose of receiving treatment that has been determined as essential to maintain quality of life by a health professional but may not need to be performed urgently. This goes beyond, but includes, medical tourism, where research has largely focused on travel for non-essential, non-urgent medical services such as cosmetic procedures. More scientific and systematic approaches to defining the field of medical travel specifically would be covered in the edition of this Research Topic, and we would welcome papers covering:

- Travel for care not available at home
- Travel for higher quality care
- Challenges regarding medical tourism (i.e. cosmetic procedures) specifically within the wider context of medical travel
- Medical care received while abroad but unintended
- Urgent medical travel services in crises

Economic impacts are intended to be central themes of the Topic. The variation in costs between countries implies that there are large potential gains from increased trade, which offers competitive markets for care as well as potential for gains for social services. However, it can also increase burden on health services and create inequalities for the local population, thus further evidence on economic impacts and potential tradeoffs is required for health policy.

Greater understanding regarding which populations do and do not travel, what factors influence decision making and what topics should be further considered by researchers, clinicians and policymakers alike are critical.

Public health considerations must be the underlying focus of the entire body of work. This includes scanning of common illnesses and treatments among medical travellers, areas of risk created and perhaps most critically, ensuring that access to medical travel not only provides treatment but considers the wider well-being of individuals.

Key research questions:

- What are the definition and main subsets of medical travel?
- What evidence is already available on necessary medical travel?
- What are the potential gains from establishing global medical travel policies?
- What quality standards are necessary for international medical travel?
- What economic and legal challenges should be considered in medical travel policies?
- Why do individuals travel abroad for care?
- Does access to medical care in foreign countries actually improve health and well-being?
- Should employers consider providing access to international care options in their corporate health packages?

Key methods:

- Review/scoping of existing literature
- Quantitative measurement development to overcome lack of comprehensive data
- Policy analyses of existing and/or hypothetical global health access programs
- Mapping of medical travel movement
- Economic models for health services


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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