Expatriate corporate workers stationed in remote regions of developing countries with limited health care resources are at substantial risk for a variety of infectious diseases.
A survey was carried out among expatriates working at a large power plant construction site in western Ghana in 1998 to evaluate their use of pretravel medical services, current knowledge, and behavioral practices in relation to food- and waterborne disease prevention, diarrhea, malaria, respiratory infections, alcohol use, and high-risk sexual activity. An anonymous, structured, and pretested questionnaire was used.
The response rate was 42 of 60 (70%). Most respondents were men (39 of 42, 93%) with previous international construction experience. Adherence to food and water safety recommendations decreased with time. Expatriates (15 of 23, 65%) from developed countries reported at least one episode of diarrhea, whereas no expatriates (0 of 9) from resource-poor countries reported diarrhea (p < 0.001). Use of malaria chemoprophylaxis deteriorated with increasing duration of time on the job site. None of the expatriates (0 of 9) who had been on the site for more than a year was still taking an antimalarial compared to those who had been there for 3 months or less (13 of 16) (p < 0.01). Forty-three percent (18 of 42) of the respondents reported having had a respiratory infection in the past 3 months. Only 38% (15 of 39) received preplacement education on human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) risk. A higher proportion of those who received pretravel HIV education used condoms always (4 of 5) than those who did not receive HIV education (1 of 5).
The use of health advice and preventive measures was generally low among the expatriate corporate survey respondents. Adherence to preventive measures declined with the increase in length of stay. Corporations need to develop appropriate health promotion strategies targeting their expatriates in developing countries.