BACKGROUND: Travel-associated health risks need to be balanced against the positive opportunities associated with interregional travel. As the perceived and real spectrum of health risks related to international travel increase both quantitatively and qualitatively, the need for more discriminating tools in clinical assessment for the purpose of mitigation, public health management, and research are needed. One group of international travelers identified as having increased risk of poor travel-related health outcomes are those who travel with the specific intent of visiting friends or relatives (VFR travelers). Due to variations in defining VFR travel in the health context there are issues in applying this designation uniformly from multiple perspectives. This article supports the standardization of VFR traveler definitions based on objective criteria and provides illustrations of the application of this definition through an illustrated approach to risk assessment based on these criteria and the differentials in the determinants of health between source and destination regions.
METHODS: A working group was established by the Migration Health Sub-committee, International Society for Travel Medicine to assess the literature on VFR travel and health, review an evidence-based approach to managing health risk related to travel, and to propose criteria-based definition for VFR travel. The new definition of a VFR is a traveler whose primary purpose of travel is to visit friends or relatives where there is a gradient of epidemiological risk between home and destination.
RESULTS: A case scenario discussion of VFR travel defined by criteria and risk assessment based on differential determinants of health is presented in this article.
DISCUSSION: The goal of this article is to encourage discussion on travel health evaluation for the most "at risk" populations and to standardize the application of clinical, public health, and research approaches to defining VFR travelers in a risk management context.