Guide to the virtual medical universe

Despite the weak dollar, a growing number of Americans are traveling overseas for less expensive medical care. But there's another way to become a so-called medical tourist, without a passport, luggage, or even leaving your house, notes the October 2008 issue of the Harvard Health Letter. All you need for this version of medical globe-trotting is a computer, an Internet connection, and some curiosity.

Many countries have created English-language health Web sites produced or vetted by their health agencies. The Health Letter explores a dozen of them. These Web sites provide a window into country-specific health concerns and insight into how health care delivery and attitudes vary by country. Some also offer nuggets of advice and helpful programs of universal interest. Some examples:

  • South Africa (
    One of the most comprehensive offerings of the South African Department of Health Web site is a guideline on foot care. Odd, until you realize that feet are the primary means of transportation for most South Africans.
  • Australia (
    Australia has the world's highest skin cancer rate, so it's no surprise it also provides the world's most comprehensive Web site on skin cancer prevention. SunSmart provides standard advice on sun protection, as well as more detailed information on storing sunscreen, the minimum width of a protective hat brim (no baseball caps!), and more.
  • Hong Kong (
    The Hong Kong government has been waging a "Healthy Exercise for All" campaign since 2000. The Web site has an exercise routine for every stage of life - and almost every level of fitness. Workouts range from familiar calisthenics to dancing and rope skipping.

The Health Letter article also looks at Web sites from Botswana, Canada, Fiji, India, Iraq, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Singapore, and the United Kingdom.

Also in this issue:

  • Health report card: Obama vs. McCain
  • Drug-herb interactions
  • Shingles vaccine
  • Alternatives to B12 injections?

The Harvard Health Letter is available from Harvard Health Publications, the publishing division of Harvard Medical School, for $24 per year. Subscribe at or by calling 877-649-9457 (toll-free).


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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