Preparation and Planning
Participating in an international program can present a range of health and safety risks.
Pre-travel medical care and education, strong on-site health and safety policies and practices, and emergency planning are critical to risk mitigation.
Resources and Information
- Pre-Travel Medical Planning
- Pre-Travel Health Resources
- International Health Insurance
- Traveling with Medications
- Emergency Procedures
- Health and Wellness Information Form
- Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Resources
Adequate preparation can help address health and safety risks to students during their international experiences. Travel organizers should develop appropriate practices to ensure adequate preparation for their participants.
- All travelers should have a pre-travel consultation with a specialized travel health provider. Travelers should be counseled to make arrangements as quickly as possible once travel is planned. Many needed immunizations should be initiated several weeks before travel. In the event a travel health provider is unavailable, travelers should seek travel advice from their personal health care provider.
- Travelers with any ongoing health conditions should discuss their travel plans with their personal medical or mental health care provider. Arrangements should be made for any ongoing medications and medical care that may be required.
- Travel organizers should direct travelers to information resources about health and safety risks during travel. This information should include both specific information about risks in the proposed location(s) as well as recommendations for reducing risk. Topics should include:
- Food and water borne illnesses
- Sexually transmitted infections
- Insect borne diseases such as malaria or dengue fever
- Other infectious diseases in the area
- Personal safety including crime prevention
- Food and dietary customs including availability of special diets
- Alcohol, tobacco, and other drug customs and laws
- Vehicular safety and injury/injury prevention
- Local medical and mental health resources
Review the following health-related resources prior to travel:
Travelers should ensure they are covered by comprehensive health insurance including coverage for medical care while abroad, medical evacuation and repatriation. Individuals should contact their primary health insurer with questions regarding how their coverage works while in travel status.
Students studying/traveling abroad under a UW sponsored program must enroll in health insurance through an insurance plan offered by Cultural Insurance Services International (CISI).
Employees in work status while involved in educational pursuits abroad are automatically enrolled in a special medical evacuation and repatriation program through the Europ Assistance program and can enroll in the CISI program on a voluntary basis.
For more information, see International Health Insurance.
Travelers with ongoing health conditions should meet with their preferred network provider before departure or a UHS Travel Clinic provider.
For those with existing health conditions, ensure any needed prescription drugs are allowed prior to entering a foreign country (CISI can check this for you), and pack them in your carry-on luggage. You may also want to obtain a prescription for traveler’s diarrhea. Check any documentation requirements for prescription medications in the host country and research the process for acquiring them abroad.
In case of emergency, the U.S. Department of State recommends you always have enough of your prescribed medication on-hand to last at least five days. If possible, the DoS encourages you to bring enough of your prescribed medication to last two weeks beyond your schedule time abroad.
Review these resources on traveling with medications:
Travel organizers should develop plans for addressing health related emergencies. Plans should be appropriate to the local environment including availability of medical care, reliability of telecommunications, and accessibility for emergency evacuation. Planning should include identification of an on-site contact person available 24 hours per day/7 days per week. This information should be provided to travelers, organizers, and campus contacts.
Planning should include responses to specific issues such as:
- Sexual assault
- Mental health including psychosis, suicide and/or suicide attempt, severe depression and substance abuse
- Medical illness or injury including severe acute illness or injury and participant death
- Safety and security threats
UW-Madison has developed a standard Health and Wellness Information Form for travelers. This form serves to:
Provide basic information to travelers regarding preparation for travel; and
Provide travel organizers with health information in the event of an emergency.
- All travel organizers should require the submission of the health and wellness information form prior to travel regardless of the duration of travel. Individual Travelers should leave a copy of the form with a trusted relative or friend who would be available in the event of an emergency.
- Submission of the form should occur after selection or admission into a program and should not be used to influence admission decisions.
- Travelers with any on-going health condition should be advised to consult with their personal health care provider regarding their health and safety during travel prior to departure. Travelers should be clearly notified that neither the UW-Madison nor travel organizers are not responsible for meeting any medical needs during travel and be provided with information about local resources upon request.
- Health and Wellness Information Forms should be considered confidential documents. Each travel organizer should develop appropriate procedures to ensure that only authorized persons have access to this information.
- To ensure access to information in the event of an emergency, Health and Wellness Information Forms should be accessible at all times to both selected in-country staff AND to support staff member(s) on campus in case of emergency. Travel organizers should develop appropriate procedures to support this.
- Travel organizers and students can consult with University Health Services (UHS) if they have any particular concerns regarding a particular health issue and planned travel.
- When possible, travel organizers should develop policies, procedures and options to support students who request withdrawal from a program due to medical conditions prior to departure.
Health and Medical Preparation Tips
Check out a fellow UW-Madison student’s tips for navigating health and medical services abroad!
These best practices are recommended for all persons participating in UW-Madison-affiliated international travel. University-affiliated activities include, but are not limited to: formal study abroad programs; practica and rotations; internships; funding administered by the university; pre-arranged course credit arising from the travel; travel through a Registered Student Organization; international research; travel required to completion of a degree; field trips, conferences, and other non-credit bearing academic travel abroad.
The documents placed here represent those practices that the International Safety and Security Director (ISSD), in collaboration with The International Division and the UW-Madison study abroad offices, deem standards for the safe and secure conduct of international education. Although they are not campus policy, much of their content, in whole or in part, may be required of student travelers enrolled in programs affiliated with a UW-Madison study abroad office. These standards are written with students in mind, but they are very much applicable to the safe and secure travel abroad by anyone. The world has become a much “smaller” place in the past two decades as advances in communications and social media applications have prompted changes in the way we travel.