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Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Print version ISSN 0042-9686


HELBLE, Matthias. The movement of patients across borders: challenges and opportunities for public health. Bull World Health Organ [online]. 2011, vol.89, n.1, pp.68-72. ISSN 0042-9686.

In a globalizing world, public health is no longer confined to national borders. In recent years we have observed an increasing movement of patients across international borders. The full extent of this trend is yet unknown, as data are sparse and anecdotal. If this trend continues, experts are convinced that it will have major implications for public health systems around the globe. Despite the growing importance of medical travel, we still have little empirical evidence on its impact on public health, especially on health systems. This paper summarizes the most recent debates on this topic. It discusses the main forces that drive medical travel and its implications on health systems, in particular the impacts on access to health care, financing and the health workforce. This paper also offers guidance on how to define medical travel and how to improve data collection. It advocates for more scientific research that will enable countries to harness benefits and limit the potential risks to public health arising from medical travel.

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