How important a priority is travel medicine for a typical British family practice?

J Travel Med. May-Jun 2000;7(3):138-41. doi: 10.2310/7060.2000.00045.


Background: Primary care teams have to supply travel health advice to increasing numbers of long haul travelers but there is a shortage of information derived from general practice settings about the risks patients are exposed to. We aimed to determine the numbers of our patients visiting high-risk destinations, to see if they reported complying with health advice, and whether or not they became ill.

Methods: We performed a retrospective study in a typical British, town center, family practice in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire. A postal questionnaire survey was sent to 200 adults, aged between 16 and 76, randomly selected from the practice register, and 351 adults who had attended the practice travel clinic over a 1-year period between 1997-1998.

Results: Responses were received from 84% of the random sample and 86% of the travel clinic group. Out of 11,000 patients registered with the practice, we identified 187 patients who had traveled to high-risk destinations such as Africa, Asia, South America or the Caribbean. The majority of these had attended the practice travel clinic. Despite this, 41% became ill (mainly diarrhea), 10% were sufficiently ill to be confined to bed. Fifty-nine percent of patients who required malaria chemoprophylaxis reported they had not complied fully with advice given. Reported illness rates for medium and low risk destinations were 27 and 19% respectively.

Conclusions: The results suggest that giving health advice to long haul travelers should be an important priority for primary care teams. Travelers have a high episode rate of illness and put themselves at risk of acquiring malaria. Most travelers to high-risk destinations do attend the travel clinic for health advice but compliance with that advice is poor. People traveling to lower risk destinations still experience an appreciable rate of illness and are less likely to be seen in the travel clinic.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • England
  • Family Practice*
  • Female
  • Health Priorities
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Patient Compliance*
  • Patient Education as Topic*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Travel*