International schools often have strict admission policies which usually involve written proficiency tests, interviews and submitting students’ academic as well as medical records. Naturally, expat parents moving their families to a new country will be concerned about securing a place in an excellent international school for their child, as well as protecting their health while abroad.
In this article, we delve into the practical steps parents can take to prepare themselves for international school applications and manage their children’s health while living abroad.
What to do before leaving your home country
Moving to a new country with children can be quite daunting, but parents can take a few steps to prepare themselves to effectively manage their children's health abroad.
Find a healthcare practitioner in your new home
It is essential to speak to your family doctor or healthcare provider before moving abroad to ensure children have all the necessary vaccinations. Parents can also visit expat forums and social media groups to research GP recommendations in their new city or town.
Securing a healthcare provider is one of the most critical tasks on the priority list when moving abroad with children, as a new environment will typically result in changes that may cause illness. Parents should consider getting a doctor who is familiar with their language and culture, as children will most likely be experiencing culture shock and may be unable to articulate or advocate for their healthcare needs clearly.
Stock up on basic and prescription medication
Parents should consider bringing a three-month supply of their familiar basic medications for minor and common ailments while they acclimate to the popular brands in their new home. If it is legally permissible, parents should also stock up on prescription medications.
If necessary, expats should ensure they carry their prescriptions and have written permission from their doctors. It’s crucial for expats to thoroughly read and understand their new country’s laws and regulations on bringing medication into the country to avoid risking arrest or deportation.
Potential health risks in your new country
Expat parents should ensure they read up on the potential health risks in their new country and take preventative measures where possible. Parents sending their children to international schools should also remember that the student population largely comprises children from the world over, meaning they may have to contend with unique health conditions.
Vaccination requirements at international schools
International schools are typically a melting pot of cultures, with students coming from all over the world, and it is for that reason that many of them require their students to vaccinate against various diseases. While many of the vaccinations are routine, such as the IPV (polio), MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) and Varicella (chickenpox), some schools may require children to be vaccinated against Covid-19 as well.
Parents also need to consider regionally specific vaccinations based on the country they are moving to; for example, children moving to Japan will need to vaccinate against Japanese encephalitis. Expat parents are encouraged to check with the respective schools they are applying to on what their individual requirements are.
Preparing your child’s health records
Medical records are documents detailing children’s general health as well as medical history, and these are important for schools to adequately support children and individualise the teaching and care they provide. Medical records typically include a child’s demographic information, data on their medical conditions and allergies, as well as any mood or mental health or learning disabilities.
Expat parents can visit their family doctor or paediatrician to secure a current physical evaluation report and their child’s medical records to submit to the international schools of their choice during the application process.
Health insurance for children living abroad
Health insurance is a non-negotiable for expats moving abroad, especially those with children. Some expats may be fortunate to have their employer handle their health insurance. Otherwise, new arrivals will usually have plenty of options to choose from.
It’s essential for expats to ensure their health insurance is global and tailored to their specific needs. Parents are encouraged to spend some time thoroughly studying the inclusions and exclusions of their health insurance policies. This process includes determining which conditions and medications are covered, whether optometry and dentistry are included, and whether mental healthcare will be paid for.
If there are any genetic conditions in parents’ families, they should ensure their children are covered for the same conditions as well as the related prescriptions. Preventative healthcare is essential to include in a healthcare policy, as children are more likely to get ill than adults. A good policy will include annual check-ups, flu shots, screenings and immunisations.
While moving abroad with children can be an incredibly stressful life experience, expat parents can ease the transition for their children by preparing all the necessary records for their applications well ahead of the big move. This way, they can ensure their children get to quickly settle into an international school where they can build a community.