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Medical Tourism in the Caribbean Region: A Call to Consider Environmental Health Equity

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Medical tourism, which is the intentional travel by private-paying patients across international borders for medical treatment, is a sector that has been targeted for growth in many Caribbean countries. The international development of this industry has raised a core set of proposed health equity benefits and drawbacks for host countries. These benefits centre on the potential investment in health infrastructure and opportunities for health labour force development while drawbacks focus on the potential for reduced access to healthcare for locals and inefficient use of limited public resources to support the growth of the medical tourism industry. The development of the medical tourism sector in Caribbean countries raises additional health equity questions that have received little attention in existing international debates, specifically in regard to environmental health equity. In this viewpoint, we introduce questions of environmental health equity that clearly emerge in relation to the developing Caribbean medical tourism sector. These questions acknowledge that the growth of this sector will have impacts on the social and physical environments, resources, and waste management infrastructure in countries. We contend that in addition to addressing the wider health equity concerns that have been consistently raised in existing debates surrounding the growth of medical tourism, planning for growth in this sector in the Caribbean must take environmental health equity into account in order to ensure that local populations, environments, and ecosystems are not harmed by facilities catering to international patients.

29 Jan, 2013
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e-Published: 26 Jun, 2013
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