Navigating the travel vaccinations process with our Byzantine U.S. healthcare system seems almost as daunting as the acquiring the diseases themselves. How do we distinguish between travel health “requirements” and “recommendations?”
One size fits a few, but not you: It’s important to be conscious of your own health needs. Don’t leave your health preparations to the last minute, as some vaccines are issued over a course. Tell your medical provider to consider what you will be doing abroad, your own health history, and what you know about health concerns in your destination. Be your own advocate: ask specific questions about your doctor’s recommendations: What does this prevent? How effective are these vaccinations? What are the possible consequences of choosing not to be vaccinated? Obtain a traveler’s script of antibiotics and make sure you know when (and when not) to use them. Copy a record of your vaccination history, include the list of your regular medications, their dosage and frequency and pack this with your travel documents. Besides helping the medical providers with accurate diagnosis in case of illness, this is an organizational courtesy for your travel companions communicating health concerns on your behalf.
Valuable Travel Health Web Resources
Every traveler seeks to avoid violent revolutions and health emergencies while adventuring abroad. But somehow even thinking about the possibilities makes humans feel superstitious and uneasy, as if planning for the “what-ifs” will illogically manifest the unlikeliest outcomes. Navigating the travel vaccinations process with our Byzantine U.S. healthcare system seems almost as daunting as the acquiring the diseases themselves. How do we distinguish between travel health “requirements” and “recommendations?” How to assess the subtle nuances between government reports: “notices” “advisories,” “warnings,” and “prohibitions?” Safety and health preparedness for educational global travel can be addressed rationally. Teach yourself about the risks, preventative measures and smart traveling practices in your destination.
What’s REALLY a risk in that place? Consult the Center for Disease Control “Destinations” page with your written itinerary. Familiarize yourself with the advisories listed therein, and cross-evaluate with other websites. Read travel blogs from people on the ground in your destination. The Lonely Planet Thorntree Forum and TripAdvisor.com are great places to pose questions: “How are the hospitals in Yangon?” “Did you see more tourists than mosquitoes in Luang Prabang?” The World Health Organization is essential reading for the rogue backpacker traveler. Conde Nast’s medical editor provides some basic vaccine suggestions for the “Urban and Upscale” itineraries.
The Peace Works Travel Health & Safety advice continues next week on our blog: One size fits a few, but not you…
Healthy PWT Red-Eye Flight Tips:
Arrive refreshed, re-hydrated and ready for adventure with these simple preparations:
After showing a class of Santa Barbara High School history students this video —which conceals nothing of the horror Vietnamese families and American Veterans still suffer four generations after 20 million gallons of Agent Orange was senselessly sprayed on Vietnam — I inquire of them:
“How many of you think that the chemical companies who manufactured Agent Orange [Monsanto, Dow, among them] should pay for all the medical costs associated with Agent Orange birth defects throughout Vietnam and the United States?”
The majority of hands go up in assent.
I explain that there was a class action suit in the 1980’s and settlement for American veterans serving in the War from 1961-1972. The Settlement Fund closed in 1997 after it distributed $197 million in payment to about 52,000 American veterans and their families. The average payment was $3800.
Obviously, this doesn’t come anywhere close to redressing the injuries of everyone affected. For the Vietnamese, our chemical warfare has turned into a genetic plague: the last victim of Agent Orange has yet to be born.
I ask another question of the class:
“How many of you think that the Vietnamese government should pay for the medical expenses to their afflicted people, and the American government should pay for the medical costs to ours?”
A few hands rise and grumbling remarks represent the diversity of student thought.
“Why should the Vietnamese pay anything? This wasn’t their fault.”
“Well, why should our government have to pay anything now? This happened 40 years ago and we can’t afford healthcare for regular people here today.”
“Because we’re the idiots who dropped the chemicals.”
“I didn’t drop no chemicals on nobody.”
I decide to complicate the question of responsibility, compassion and care:
“How many of you would agree that our government should pay for the health expenses to everyone –in Vietnam and the U.S.– afflicted with Agent Orange-related disabilities if it meant that you personally had to pay more taxes?”
No hands are raised. Students look around at each other nervously.
A clarifying question from a bold student breaks the silence: “How much more in taxes?”
The room erupts with emotional opinion, everyone talking over one another. I catch snippets of their heated remarks:
“That’s so selfish, to worry about your taxes when innocent children are suffering from our stupid war!”
“Our taxes don’t give me free healthcare, now. Why should I pay more for someone I don’t even know?”
“Maybe if we have had to pay the true cost of wars, we’d think twice before getting into them all over the world.”
“What’s done is done. The best we can do now is educate ourselves so that we don’t make the same mistakes in the future.”
I hush the class and asked the level-headed young man to repeat himself for the benefit of all the students.
He elaborates: “We can’t possibly undo all the damage we caused by the Vietnam War. Even if we paid for everyone’s health problems now, what about their children, and their children’s children? You can try to help in your own personal way, by volunteering or donating or whatever. But the best thing to do is make sure we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past.”
|Students volunteer at Peace Works Travel Village, Vietnam|
And how do we make sure we learn history’s lessons? We bear witness to the horror, we heighten our sensitivity to the inhumanity, and be willing to speak up when we see it happening again.
The resident classroom teacher elaborates my point with an apt analogy to this racially-mixed group:
“Learning history’s lessons is like fighting racism. If you’ve had a terrible experience with it, or know someone who has, then the injustice becomes part of your story to tell other people. You then become the walking testimonial of that pain: “Here’s how bad it can get if we fail to do XYZ.” You must be willing to engage with those who suffer, and speak about it every chance you get. Over time, things change, because almost everyone comes to agree that it’s too horrible to go on like that anymore.”
And, paradoxically, if you’re willing to stretch your comfort zone and engage with the suffering of others in a constructive way, you’ll find a refreshed appreciation for your own life, your own health and your own challenges.
Bill Morse, Director Cambodian Landmine Museum, Siem Reap
Briggs Boss, Sophomore, Thacher School
Stacy Serrette, Teacher and Dean of Student Life, Emma Willard School
Paul Rusesabagina, Real-life Hotel Rwanda hero who saved over 1200 people during the Rwandan genocide.
Shirley Hahn, Beverly Hills, California
The Santa Barbara Independent
Alex Greer, Junior, Laguna Blanca School
Kelly Bennett, history teacher, Santa Barbara Middle School
Alexandra Kall, Francis Parker School
Spencer Barr, English Teacher, Santa Barbara High School, California
Stacy Serrette, Director of Student Life, Emma Willard School
Eric Taylor, Francis Parker School, San Diego, California