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Dr. Tsubokura's Radiation Lecture Vol.127

Author: Masaharu Tsubokura M.D., PhD.

Editors: Akihiko Ozaki M.D., PhD., Yuki Senoo

253. Communication and connecting with people in the community as a form of health management

First, I would like to express my deepest sympathies to all those who have suffered and are still suffering from the damage caused by Typhoon Hagibis (19th typhoon), which struck Japan in October 2019. Over the past few weeks, we have been introducing a series of articles addressing the several health risks following the disaster, which we learned from experiences related to the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

A recent study demonstrated that, after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, undiagnosed breast cancer patients in Fukushima Prefecture’s Hamadori area were more likely to make their first consultations after their diseases became more advanced, compared to before the earthquake. In general, as the disease progresses, treatment options may become more limited, and surgery becomes more difficult.

For example, if you wake up in the morning and find your family member sick in bed, you will probably check up on them or take them to the hospital immediately. Of course, some people can go to the hospital independently even when they are incredibly sick, but it is better if their relatives check on them first.

In cases of breast cancer, some people do not consult with a doctor or have a medical check-up immediately after they notice a lump in their breast. The above study also revealed that the people who were isolated in society tended to seek medical attention when their cancer reached more advanced stages.

Generally, we tend to focus on the direct effects of disasters on our health. However, there are many indirect effects of the social changes in our routines caused by disasters, and these effects are typically long-lasting. Such long-term effects occur after nuclear accidents as well as flood damage. One way to combat the impact of social changes following disasters is to look out for people living in the same community and communicate with one another. It may sound cliché, but it is one of the most critical health prevention methods we can employ to maintain our health.

254. Continuous attention to health risks after disasters

First, I would like to express my deepest sympathies to all those who have suffered and are still suffering from the damage caused by Typhoon Hagibis (19th typhoon), which struck Japan in October 2019. The previous articles introduced several health risks that accompany a disaster, such as increased risk of infectious disease, hypertension, traveler’s thrombosis (economy class syndrome), and health disturbances caused by the discontinuation of prescribed medication.

When we hear or learn about health risks that accompany disasters, the first thing that comes to mind might be the short-term health effects caused immediately after the disaster, such as the stress of living in an evacuation shelter, or health effects related to the recovery process in damaged habitats. However, in many cases, the effects on people’s lives do not end there, and the same is true for health issues.

The 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster triggered poor management of lifestyle-related diseases such as diabetes and osteoporosis (brittle bones), increased the need for nursing care due to advanced dementia, and resulted in poor access to hospitals and various facilities. In addition, 2011 Fukushima disaster victims might experience additional health burden from the social changes caused by moving from the shelter into new homes.

Nowadays, we are exposed to an enormous amount of information overflow every day, so our attention shifts quickly. As a result, the problems caused by disasters become less and less noticeable, it and may seem as though the issue has been resolved as time passes. However, we should recognize that each person recovers from the damage and social changes caused by disasters at a different pace. If we compare the recovery rate from the damage caused by disasters to a footrace, some people can sprint down the track, whereas others can only move forward at a slow pace. The world would be a better place if those who can recover quickly from disaster-related damage also noticed those struggling to move forward and paused for a moment to support them. In terms of the disaster recovery process, it is crucial to establish and maintain such a supportive environment.


The Japanese version of the manuscript was originally published in Fukushima Minyu, a local newspaper in Fukushima prefecture, Japan, 24th November and 1, December 2019 was reproduced for MRIC Global under the author's permission.


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