Medical care is one of the primary concerns for people who move to a foreign country. By taking a few simple precautions and informing yourself about the available healthcare options, you can lead a healthy life in Shanghai.
Health Care Providers in Shanghai.
There are several medical and dental clinics catering to foreigners; in addition, many of the local hospitals have “foreigner units.” There is, however, a wide range of variability in quality, expertise, and services offered. Ask friends and colleagues for their recommendations. Tour the facilities and ask about the education and experience of the physicians, the practice standards of the facility, the equipment, services and medications available (e.g. imported, joint-venture, and/or local medications), and the management of care. Once you have identified the health care provider you prefer, work with that provider to establish an emergency plan for you and your family. Also be sure that your choice of provider is known at your office and by your childcare provider. You may also want to consider evacuation insurance; there are several companies who offer this service.
Vaccinations, Immunizations, and Communicable Diseases.
Recommendations for vaccinations and immunizations vary by home country and by individual, depending on age, prior vaccination history, plans for travel around the region, expectations of sanitation conditions, and so on. Keep in mind that most published information on vaccinations is focused on tourists; recommendations may differ for people intending to live in the region. Hepatitis A and B, polio, tetanus, flu, chickenpox, typhoid, and rabies are some of the most commonly recommended, however, your healthcare provider will be able to recommend the vaccinations and immunizations that are right for you and your family.
Food and Water Safety.
Although water purity in Shanghai is improving, the quality varies throughout the city. Most expatriates use bottled distilled water for their household needs, which is available in 5 gallon (“water cooler”) sized containers from several retailers who will deliver. Always use distilled water for drinking and ice cubes, and when cooking anything which absorbs water, such as pasta or rice. The commonly heard food safety refrain for tourists is: “Peel it, cook it, boil it, or forget it.” This is also good tip for foreign residents in Shanghai to keep in mind; a higher level of caution must be taken than most of us were accustomed to in our home countries. Care should be taken with raw meat; it should be stored and handled separately from other food items and cooked fully. Raw fruits and vegetables that you will not be peeling should be treated either with a disinfectant solution like Milton or a strong salt concentrate for 30 minutes. Vegetables that are going to be thoroughly cooked should not need sterilizing, especially if they are being peeled first. Insects can be removed by immersion in a strong salt solution for about 10 minutes. For meals outside the home, choose the places you eat out carefully, following recommendations from friends or colleagues.
Staying Healthy in Shanghai.
Health is often an issue that people do not think about until they need care. Expatriates and other travelers often wait too long to visit the doctor or underestimate the seriousness of their illness, and could have had better outcomes with earlier treatment. The best thing you can do to ensure a healthy stay is to investigate your healthcare options before you become ill, and see your preferred physician when you feel ill. A little prevention and advanced planning will go a long way to ensuring a healthy stay in Shanghai.