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Thinking About Joining The Peace Corps Or Other International Relief Group? Health Factors To Consider

by Terry Wilson

If you have always wanted to work for an international relief organization like the Peace Corps or another group, you might currently be pondering the possibility of finally signing up and heading overseas. While helping with famine relief and other international human rights issues is a noble and meaningful goal, it is also important that you consider all of the factors before you put in your application and begin the process to head out on your first trip. One of those issues you need to consider is your health. Get to know some of the health factors to consider so you can be sure that you will be safe and healthy if and when you decide to join an international relief organization for an overseas assignment.

Make a Plan for Your Medically-Managed Conditions

Many people who work in international relief have chronic health conditions. So, if you do have certain health conditions, it does not automatically mean that you will not be able to serve overseas. However, you will need to come up with a plan to be sure that you remain healthy and safe if and when you decide to go.

Medically-managed conditions can be tricky in general. Here in the United States, though, you have access to high-quality medical care, readily available emergency medical services, and fully-stocked pharmacies. Working overseas doing relief work is another story. Most of the ares you will be working in are highly impoverished and rural. Medical care may be scarce or outdated if there is any at all, let alone emergency care or access to pharmaceuticals.

Making a plan for your medically-managed health conditions (like asthma, for example), will include planning for all contingencies, including worst case scenarios. You will need to stock up on any and all prescriptions and over-the-counter medications you take and make sure that your relief organization helps you get those medications to your final destination. Your primary care physician can help you to develop a plan of what to do to prevent medical emergencies and what you will need to do in case of one. It is vital that you thoroughly weigh the risks to your health of going overseas with your particular condition so that you do not do yourself undue harm.

Update Your Immunizations and Prepare for Many More to Come

If you have not kept up-to-date on important immunizations for yourself here in the United States like your tetanus shot or you were not immunized for measles, mumps, or other health conditions as a child, now is the time to get all of your immunizations updated. As previously mentioned, in areas where you will be doing relief work, healthcare is often lacking.

This means that diseases that have all but been eradicated in countries like the United States may be quite common where you are headed. You want to make sure you are as protected as possible from contracting potentially lethal infections. Talk to your doctor and update all of your common U.S. vaccinations that need it.

Then, be sure that you are ready to get a slew of other vaccinations and immunizations before you head out overseas. The exact number and type of immunizations you need will depend on the area of the world you are headed. For any country in South America or Africa, for example, you will likely need a malaria vaccine, as well as typhoid and yellow fever vaccinations, among others. Know that the immunization process may require a series of injections over time and that you will need to be sure you get all of the injections in the series to be fully protected.

With these health factors in mind, you can be sure you are making the right decision for yourself in joining an international relief group and that your health is as protected as possible.