Red Cross Health Class
The elderly people affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake and the Fukushima Daiichi accident are experiencing a prolonged evacuation and/or living an inconvenient lifestyle in temporary housing. This has caused great concerns about their physical and mental health.
In order to help to prevent disuse syndrome and need for nursing care or to alleviate isolation due to the changed environment and disrupted hometown communities, the Fukushima Chapter gives health classes to the elderly survivors. The classes are held, working with Red Cross volunteer corps. The chapter expects that the cooperation will further vitalize volunteer activities in the communities.
Organized by: Fukushima Chapter, JRCS city/town/village branches, Red Cross volunteer corps, temporary housing residents’ associations.
Venue: Meeting rooms in temporary housing compound, etc.
Target: Elderly people aged about 65 or older.
No. of participants: About 30 people per class.
Staff: Instructors for Healthy Life Course (also cooperated by instructors from other chapters) and Red Cross volunteers including Red Cross volunteer corps members.
(1) Health check (measurement of blood pressure and body fat)
(2) Health class including how to prevent life-style related diseases (how to make a lobe from a blanket and a hot towel, foot bathing, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), how to use an AED, and body-stretching exercise, etc.)
(4) Flower arrangement, and an entertainment party planned by Red Cross volunteer corps (games, Japanese folk songs and dance, etc.)
Maps of venues [PDF]
The health classes are held in meeting rooms in the temporary housing compounds and community centers in Fukushima Prefecture, supported by health class instructors and Red Cross volunteer corps in each community. The venues in each fiscal year are shown on each map.
The Red Cross Health Classes started in September 2011.
23 classes were held at 23 venues including temporary housing.
26 classes took place. Flower arrangement using fresh flowers was added to the program from the class held in Tamura City in July 2013. The participants were very pleased with it.
23 classes were held. The class in Fukushima City in February 2015 was collaborated with All Nippon Airways (ANA) where a “Kouku* Fair in Fukushima” was planned and held.
* This Japanese word phonetically means aviation or oral. During the class, the participants enjoyed cart service of refreshments and chocolates by ANA cabin attendants and then they received a lesson on tooth brushing from a dental hygienist.
26 classes were held. At some temporary housing venues, the health classes were held for the first time. The Red Cross Health Classes are continuously provided.
Here are some actual cases of the Red Cross Health Classes:
Example of Red Cross Health Class (Nagahara Temporary Housing, Aizuwakamatsu City) [PDF]
The citizens of Okuma Town live in this temporary housing. The Red Cross Health Class was held in collaboration with the Kitakata Red Cross Volunteer Corps who has continued to support the people living in this temporary housing.
Example of Red Cross Health Class (Kaiyama Temporary Housing, Miharu Town) [PDF]
The citizens of Katsurao Village live in this temporary housing. The health class was held in collaboration with the Miharu Red Cross Volunteer Corps. The Katsurao Red Cross Volunteer Corps members who were the evacuees living in the temporary housing also joined the class.
Comment by Fukushima Chapter staff
After the relief activities during the response phase were finished, the decision was made to provide recovery assistance for people living in temporary housing. We thought about what the Red Cross could provide to them. We wanted to provide them with helpful knowledge and skills to lead a healthy life, provide events which anyone could enjoy a happy time together and smile and also serve as psychosocial care for the participants if possible.
The Fukushima Chapter had provided “Red Cross Health Class” in communities even before the Great East Japan Earthquake and reconsidered the content so that the program could be suitable for people living in temporary housing. There were concerns about life-style related diseases, disuse syndrome and depression due to changes in their life patterns caused by evacuation and a lack of exercise. We explain to participants in the health class that measurement of blood pressure and body fat (i.e. health check with measurement instruments), lectures about prevention of life-style related diseases, hot towel and foot bathing will help them if they are in need of nursing care. Since many elderly people participate in the class, the lectures about how to stand up to the feet from a chair and how to assist a person are well-received by the participants.
The temporary housing residents are very interested in CPR and how to use an AED in case of getting sick. Since an AED was delivered to the meeting room of each temporary housing location by the JRCS, we included the training in the health class program. Unattended deaths in temporary housing have been reported by the media and there have been many earthquake-related deaths in Fukushima Prefecture. Therefore, the residents are more interested in this program training.
Lunch boxes are delivered to each venue. The participants have lunch together and chat with each other. Many participants are living alone and say during the lunchtime: “It tastes more delicious if I have a meal with someone.” The kitchen in the meeting room is small, so it is more convenient to order a lunch-box catering service.
The program after the lunch is flower arrangement. The participants arrange flowers in a small cup. They look happy while arranging flowers. We included this content in the program because we wanted them to be mentally healed as much as possible. The flower arrangement is well-received.
After they enjoy the flower arrangement, an entertainment party is provided. We asked the collaborating Red Cross volunteer corps to help measure the weight and body fat of the participants as a health check and to prepare some entertainment for the party. They prepare songs, exercises and games which all participants can enjoy. We planned this event by involving Red Cross Volunteer Corps, because we hoped that the volunteer corps would maintain their relationship with the temporary housing even after the program of the Red Cross Health Class is finished.
Red Cross volunteer corps are organized in almost all cities, towns and villages in Fukushima Prefecture. They have provided volunteer service in communities since before the Great East Japan Earthquake. During the disaster, they actively volunteered in cooking and providing hot meals for the survivors. After their service during the response phase, they voiced their concerns: “Temporary housing was prepared for the survivors, but how can we provide volunteer service to them living there?” However, we were informed that the Red Cross volunteer corps engaged in the Red Cross Health Classes and this led to continued volunteer activities for many of the volunteer corps. We are very happy about that.
Relaxation is a part of the program. We want the participants to feel the warmth and touch from hands. We included this in the program because we wanted to provide them with time for healing.
At the end of the program, all the participants cheer to encourage themselves. We hope them to overcome the current hardship with spirit. That is the program of the Red Cross Health Class.
Many of the participants were elderly people. Looking at the questionnaire, most of their remarks were: “I enjoyed the program very much.” “I laughed so much today for the first time in a long time.” On the other hand, they replied to the questions such as “What are you interested in? What are you suffering?” with: “Concerns about my health and living separately from my family.” “Fear of my life in the future.” “Fear of when I can return to my home.” Many of them talk about their experience soon after the onset of the earthquake. We feel that they are still having too many thoughts and feelings to release even four years later, which are about the horror at the time of the disaster and the hard experience of being moved from one evacuation center to another.
Another thing we decided on in order to hold this program is: we will never place a burden on the branch staff and local municipalities who were forced to evacuate. In organizing a class, we usually begin our procedures after receiving an application form. However, as for holding this program, soon after receiving a telephone call requesting the health class, the Fukushima Chapter begins to prepare flyers, coordinate with various groups and request for PR to avoid placing a burden on the branch staff who are confused and exhausted.
We turned this health class into a package program called “Red Cross Health Class”. We think that this packaging has made the program easy to understand and organize.
This program has been organized by two instructors for Healthy Life Course. Other instructors of the Fukushima Chapter and the Japanese Red Cross Fukushima Hospital cooperate with them. However, additional support from other local chapters is also essential. The residents evacuated from their homes due to the nuclear accident which is a particular disaster. Therefore, we call for cooperation to instructors at chapters across Japan, hoping that they will understand the situation more in Fukushima Prefecture on this occasion and the experience will help them to provide their Red Cross activities in the future.
We explain about the international donations received from Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies around the world to the participants in the health class. After they heard our explanation that the international donations allow this program to be organized and held and that the household appliances were delivered to the survivors who live in the temporary housing, many of them said: “We never knew that.”
Finally, we would like to describe about the program PR to temporary housing residents. At first, we were confused about how we should inform the temporary housing residents of the health class. However, we have been able to invite them to participate in the class with the help of the Red Cross branch staff, a social welfare council, presidents of temporary housing residents’ associations, life supporters for temporary housing residents and sometimes Red Cross volunteer corps members. When the PR does not work well, the Fukushima Chapter members directly visit the temporary housing door to door to deliver the flyers in person.
That is it for the content of this program, the ripple effects and the efforts that we are making. Holding the health class also needs human resources. We are very busy with: asking about needs for the health class; deciding on the schedule; communication and coordination; PR; preparation of hand-outs and items to bring to the classes; placing an order for lunch boxes and flowers with local shops (payment: to be made at the venues); requesting milk and yogurt from a local dairy company who has been supporting the classes; treatment of in-advance-payment; accommodation reservations for instructors who come from around the country to teach some of the classes; and being drivers. However, the dedicated staff for the recovery assistance programs and the efforts that the staff are making are the driving force for this health program.