HR Workshop: How You Can Mitigate the Health Risks of Your International & Local Employees

The third FEM event held by Shanghai Chapter in 2016 at International SOS Office explored best practices to tackle health and security related issues

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How do your company’s employees usually imagine the host country of their new assignment? Exciting, exotic and cosmopolitan? Or Scary, wild and dangerous? Whatever it may be the realities can be quite different to any expectation and it is important that companies and employees are aware of the real and actual risks especially when looking to minimize health risk horror stories. The last FEM event held by Shanghai Chapter on 29th November under the guidance of Dr. Greg Jakubowski, Regional Medical Director in Asia, and Dr. Carrianne Ewe, Chief Medical Advisor in China, from International SOS, who discussed these topics in a workshop sharing insights from their experience. The discussion and interactive sessions focused on best practices to tackle health and security related issues presented through real case studies.

In today’s world we are exposed to many travel risks. Some obvious like vehicle accidents, infectious illnesses, terrorism and war and some less obvious like institutional related issues, linguistic and cultural barriers and chronic diseases. Even when we are aware of them we all tend to still think they will not happen to us but data show us a quite different scenario. 50% of 100,000 individuals travelling to a developing country for one month being diagnosed with either a physical or mental health problem that will make them vulnerable and impact their ability to complete their trips' missions.

So the issue is not trivial. PWC’s Mobility Research shows that the mobile population in large organization is increasing and companies are hosting assignees in a larger number of countries than ever before and a higher direct and indirect costs will occur from failed assignments, especially when the loss of market share and the brand reputational damage are taken into consideration. Return on Prevention (ROP) is becoming as popular as more traditional Return on Investment (ROI) performance measures. The international journal of tropical & travel medicine ACTM reported that 38% of travelers suffer minor to major health issue resulting in short to long term sick leave for up to 14%. Prevention programmes have to aim at identifying pre-existing medical issues before employees are assigned to foreign country, ensuring that they are fit-to-work for proposed job or work conditions and identifying general & work-related health problems before departure. Cost-benefit analysis showed that every US$1 invested in prevention returns a benefit ranging from US$1.6 (minimum scenario) to US$2.53 (maximum scenario).

Information and communication are the key at every stage of the assignment or travel. It is crucial to assess the destination, advise your company’s employees on any possible implication of medical risks there and educate them on the security rules for travelers. This will facilitate to create awareness within the organization and will help to prevent health travel risks when possible or at least allow everyone to be prepared on how to deal with emergencies when they occur.

For more information about FEM Shanghai Chapter, please feel free to contact Cecilia Cinquina at

Cecilia Cinquina

Business Development Manager, Sterling Relocation

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