Beyond Academics: A Health Preparedness Checklist For Indian Students Going Abroad

Beyond Academics: A Health Preparedness Checklist For Indian Students Going Abroad

Over the past five years, more than 400 Indian students have perished overseas. While sending their children abroad, the possibility of an untimely death is the least on parents' minds. Providing the necessary logistical support and achieving closure is often challenging. FPJ has chosen to look at this aspect closely and provide some navigation points, if at all, to avoid future eventualities.

Tushar VyasUpdated: Monday, May 20, 2024, 11:20 AM IST
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Beyond Academics: A Health Preparedness Checklist For Indian Students Going Abroad | Unsplash

Over a million Indian students pursue studies abroad. While parents meticulously plan everything for their children, crucial aspects related to health, emergencies, hospitalisation and the associated procedures are often neglected, largely due to the assumption that universities will have these covered and their wards are unlikely to require emergency services.

However, a startling revelation by the Indian government on Dec 7, 2023, underscores the gravity of this issue. Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan informed the Rajya Sabha that 403 Indian students have died abroad since 2018. The data submitted by the ministry revealed that Canada reported the highest number of deaths (91), followed by the United Kingdom (48), Russia (40), the United States (36) and Australia (35).

These alarming statistics emphasise the importance of being prepared for medical emergencies while studying abroad. Therefore, it's essential to share some fundamental tips based on learning from those who have navigated medical emergencies overseas. These learnings are derived from personal experiences and conversations with other parents and should not be taken as medical or legal advice.

University Preparedness: 

An international student must understand that their university may not be fully equipped to handle all emergency situations. Therefore, they should be familiarised with the university's medical emergency procedures, the roles and responsibilities of various staff members and any third parties involved in these processes. So one would need to ask relevant questions and seek assurances from the university. The student’s safety and health should always be prioritised. 

Insurance plan selection

When choosing an insurance plan, it's essential to ensure that it adequately covers all potential emergency support requirements. This includes services like ambulance transportation, hospitalisation and other necessary medical treatments. The right insurance plan should not obstruct access to required medical care but provide comprehensive coverage during emergencies. Most importantly, the cost of the plan should not be the only deciding factor; the extent of coverage is equally, if not more, important. 

Understanding the process

One can start by mapping out their support system and emergency services and identifying nearby medical facilities. This proactive approach will ensure they are well-prepared in case of an emergency. Furthermore, keeping the family updated about these processes is equally important.  

Privacy laws 

Getting acquainted with privacy laws like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in the U.S. is important. Some privacy laws mandate patient confidentiality, even during medical emergencies, which means a student’s family or university officials may not be informed.

AMA Process

Understanding processes like "Against Medical Advice" (AMA) is also crucial. One shouldn’t sign such forms without consulting family members or trusted individuals who understand the implications. The AMA process can differ significantly between countries and states, so one should take time to comprehend AMA or any similar process.  

First responders vs doctors: 

Unlike in India, the first responders in medical emergencies abroad are usually paramedics. In case of doubts, students should insist on seeing a qualified doctor or request hospitalisation. 

Declaring the status

A student must disclose their status as an international student and freshman, if necessary, to the medical emergency provider. It’s important to inform them regarding the need for active support to manage the process and consent to inform university officials, friends and family members. 

Night-time precautions

During night-time medical emergencies, one should avoid being alone. Based on the situation, they should be either with friends or head to a hospital. 

Health awareness and proactive checkups

One must not ignore any symptoms based on their age or overall good health, especially chest pain or heart-related symptoms in post-COVID situations. They should undergo proactive, comprehensive check-ups before leaving for overseas studies.

Registering on the Indian government's portal for students abroad athttps://madad.gov.in is important. It will ensure one stays connected with the Indian community and gets timely assistance.

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