Background. Globally mobile populations are at higher risk of acquiring geographically restricted infections and may play a role in the international spread of infectious diseases. Despite this, data about sources of health information used by international travelers are limited.
Methods. We surveyed 1,254 travelers embarking from Boston Logan International Airport regarding sources of health information. We focused our analysis on travelers to low or low-middle income (LLMI) countries, as defined by the World Bank 2009 World Development Report.
Results. A total of 476 survey respondents were traveling to LLMI countries. Compared with travelers to upper-middle or high income (UMHI) countries, travelers to LLMI countries were younger, more likely to be foreign-born, and more frequently reported visiting family as the purpose of their trip. Prior to their trips, 46% of these travelers did not pursue health information of any type. In a multivariate analysis, being foreign-born, traveling alone, traveling for less than 14 days, and traveling for vacation each predicted a higher odds of not pursuing health information among travelers to LLMI countries. The most commonly cited reason for not pursuing health information was a lack of concern about health problems related to the trip. Among travelers to LLMI countries who did pursue health information, the internet was the most common source, followed by primary care practitioners. Less than a third of travelers to LLMI countries who sought health information visited a travel medicine specialist.
Conclusions. In our study, 46% of travelers to LLMI countries did not seek health advice prior to their trip, largely due to a lack of concern about health issues related to travel. Among travelers who sought medical advice, the internet and primary care providers were the most common sources of information. These results suggest the need for health outreach and education programs targeted at travelers and primary care practitioners.