Project Overview of the Health Interview Survey
and Health Assistance for Namie Evacuees
Background and History of Project Inception
In 2012, the Nursing Department of the Japanese Red Cross Society (JRCS) and the Japanese Red Cross College of Nursing (College of Nursing) jointly carried out a study, Research on Smooth Provision of Public Health Services to Evacuees Settled in Iwaki City, funded by the Health and Labour Sciences Research Grants provided by the Ministry of Health Labour and Welfare. Motivated by the outcomes of the study that revealed an alarming status of the evacuees, the JRCS Nursing Department and the College of Nursing began to examine how support activities for the affected residents should be designed.
It was during this process that they were approached by the Namie municipality requesting help. The town had been challenged by several problems: They were struggling to secure public health nurses in Iwaki City; the Namie evacuees who had settled in the city had difficulties finding ways to get together for community interaction because no municipal temporary housing had been constructed for the Namie citizens in Iwaki and therefore they were living in rent-free leased housing that were scattered around many places across Iwaki City; and, the coexistence of three different evacuation zones* within Namie Town was likely to impede the former Namie residents’ early return home and the restoration of their community. Consequently, considering that the Namie municipality proactively called for support and their needs were pressing, the JRCS and the College of Nursing decided to provide support to Namie Town.
In the course of events described above, the health survey and support project targeted at the Namie evacuees in Iwaki City was initiated jointly by the JRCS, the College of Nursing and the Namie Municipality. On September 18, 2012, an agreement was signed with the Namie municipality, launching the project at first as a one-year initiative (October 2012-September 2013). Later, as they assessed that continual assistance would be needed for Namie, the project turned into a long-term initiative stretching to March 2017.
* Namie Town is divided into 3 zones based on the radioactivity level; Zone in Preparation for the Lifting of the Evacuation Order, Restricted Residence Area, and Difficult to Return Zone.
Objectives and Significance of the Activities
Residing in rent-free housing scattered throughout the city, the Namie citizens who were evacuated to Iwaki may develop various health issues. To detect the likelihood of health problems at an early phase and connect the finding to the public healthcare services to minimize health problems, the project activities were carried out with the following objectives in mind:
- Have a grasp of the health status of the Namie citizens. Where there is a need for public healthcare services, connect the finding to healthcare support to help improve the health problem, in alliance with the public healthcare system of the Namie municipality.
- Have a grasp of the health status of the Namie citizens and identify their support needs.
- When interviewing them, listen intently to their accounts on daily living and their experience, thereby implementing the “care by lending an ear to the client’s accounts” approach.
- Analyze the results of the heath survey to design/carry out diverse Salon activities.
- Examine how public healthcare services should be delivered and how the community should be built based on support needs.
In the meantime, in addition to its contribution to maintaining wellness of the Namie evacuees, the project had also the significance as described below:
- Early intervention helped to prevent exacerbation of the conditions, thereby contributing to grasping the health problems of the Namie citizens and taking measures at an early phase.
- Listening to their accounts led not only to alleviation of anxiety and stress but also to mental support for them to ponder about their future life.
- The project gave the participating nurses/public health nurses the opportunity of considering post-disaster care from a mid/long-term perspective. Additionally, the project identified the support needs of the affected people in displacement and helped utilize the information for education and practice of disaster nursing.
- The Red Cross could obtain information to deliberate how the mid- and long-term post-disaster support should stand.
The project was comprised of two programs, i.e., the Follow-up Health Interview Activities and the Health Assistance Activities. In the former, nurses made house calls to the Namie citizens to practice “care by lending an ear”; in the latter, they managed a learning lounge termed “Salon” and a counselling room, at a place called “Public Health Room for Namie” (renamed from “Iwaki Red Cross Office” in 2013) set up in Iwaki City.
The Follow-up Health Interview Activities was a health survey conducted at the request of the Namie municipality. Targeting the former Namie residents, it was carried out by the lending-an-ear approach practiced by house calls or telephone. According to the questionnaire formulated by the Namie municipality and the College of Nursing, the survey investigated the Namie evacuees’ health status, information about individuals who were likely to require continual support and their support needs. Since the primary objective of the survey was to “provide care practiced by lending an ear to the evacuees”, the focus was on listening to what they say, rather than asking questions.
The Health Assistance Activities included Salon activities inviting the Namie citizens. Initially, the program was carried out in such a way that the project staff joined gatherings arranged by other organizations and provided on site blood pressure measurement service, health counselling, etc. However, in 2013 and onwards, the Salon activities were designed by the JRCS personnel and held at the “JRCS Public Health Room for Namie”, where programs such as “Moms’ Salon”, “Sutra Copying”, “Handicraft Salon”, “Health Exercise”, and “Yoga Salon” were implemented.