Health Interview Survey and Health Assistance for People Evacuated from Namie Town to Iwaki City
Radiation effects of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant Accident forced the evacuation of the entire population of Namie Town. The majority of the Namie citizens have fled outside Fukushima prefecture, whereas many have been displaced within Fukushima, scattered across the vast area. While a temporary office of the municipality of Namie was set up in the far inland city of Nihonmatsu, many of the Namie evacuees opted to live in Iwaki, a city situated, like Namie, along the coast of Fukushima prefecture. Since no temporary housing was available in Iwaki for the former Namie residents living there, they have been placed in rent-free housing* that is scattered over the large city. This has not only made it difficult for the Namie municipality to deliver adequate public/healthcare services to their former residents, but has also made the Namie evacuees prone to live in social isolation because there are few community venues where they can assemble for socializing. Please click here (in Japanese) for more information about the evacuation of Namie citizens.
Due to these circumstances, at the request of the Namie municipality, the Japanese Red Cross Society (JRCS) and the Japanese Red Cross College of Nursing (“College of Nursing”) jointly undertook a project to provide health assistance to the Namie evacuees living in Iwaki city by means of personal health interviews conducted by nurses and public health nurses, who were assigned from the Red Cross hospitals throughout the country and the College of Nursing and called on the Namie evacuees to give ears to their stories and accounts. The researchers had to initiate the project from scratch as the methodology was new to them. However, backed up by cooperation with the municipality personnel and the community members involved, the project activities have made good progress. The 4.5 years of their efforts, from the project launch in October 2012 through March 2017, have been documented in this web page.
*Rent-free housing: Fukushima prefectural government provides evacuees, by free of charge, with leased private-sector accommodation. Because most of these accommodations are scattered across the sheltering areas, the community venues for evacuees to assemble, as those found in temporary housing complexes, are not available for the residents living in rent-free housing.
Prior to launching the project, the JRCS and the College of Nursing had jointly carried out a study on the provision of public health services to evacuees displaced in Iwaki, funded by the Health and Labour Sciences Research Grant provided by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. Recognizing the serious situation these people were in, the researchers set about deliberating how the support schemes for evacuees should be designed, when they received a call for help from the municipality of Namie, where many of the former residents had been displaced in Iwaki City and found to be developing various health problems.
Consequently, the JRCS and College of Nursing jointly undertook the project, Health Interview Survey and Health Assistance for People Evacuated from Namie Town to Iwaki City, in collaboration with the Namie municipality and the relevant public health and welfare agencies. The project consists of the “Follow-up Health Interview Activity Program”─wherein nurses listen to, by house calls or telephone, the stories and accounts told by the Namie evacuees─and the “Salon Activity Program”, which provides a community venue for the Namie evacuees to participate in social interaction. Please refer also to the web page, Project Overview of the Health Interview Survey and Health Assistance for Namie Evacuees, for details of this project.
Because neither the JRCS nor the College of Nursing had experience in undertaking such a project, they needed to mull it over and exercise ingenuity before implementing it.
The project was a joint initiative conducted by the JRCS and the College of Nursing. For this reason, tasks were assigned between the two groups before elaborating the organization, personnel structure and operation of the administrative office to be opened in Iwaki city. A clerk and a part-time nurse were stationed at the Iwaki office on a regular basis and the nurses assigned from the Red Cross hospitals around the country joined them. During the duration of the project, a total of 79 nurses were assigned from 50 Red Cross hospitals. The JRCS headquarters and the College of Nursing in Tokyo maintained close contact with the Iwaki office, to which the staff members and teachers made visits as necessary to run the operation.
Meanwhile, to carry on with the activities smoothly and make the project sustainable over a long period of time, the researchers used ingenuity to form a collaborative alliance with the relevant organizations in the community; they shared information on a regular basis with the municipality of Namie, the Soso Public Health and Welfare Office of Fukushima prefecture, and the Fukushima Center for Disaster Mental Health, thereby connecting the project to actual support for those who need it.
For details, please also see the page, Project Characteristics of the Health Interview Survey and Health Assistance for Namie Evacuees.
A Brief Summary of the Contents:
The project was commenced with the Follow-up Health Interview Activity Program, which was designed to grasp the health status of the Namie evacuees through interviews. Being not merely an investigational study, their approach also focused on “lending an ear to the evacuees”. Although some people were reluctant at first, they gradually became less reserved and began to talk about various matters as the nurses frequented their home.
In 2013 the Salon Activity Program was launched, offering a place for the Namie evacuees to participate in. Held at the “JRCS Public Health Room for Namie”, the program included various activities such as “Moms’ Salon” and “sutra copying”, attracting many participants.
For details of these activities, please refer also to the web page, Activities Included in the Health Interview Survey and Health Assistance for Namie Evacuees.
The JRCS and the College of Nursing have issued project reports providing the aspects such as the background of the project inception, the development and progress of the preliminary work, how to establish alliances with various organizations concerned, facts of the activities, and findings from the survey. They have also put together the results of the investigation of the Namie evacuees’ health status and their support needs. These reports have been published on the Digital Archives so that they will be of use as basic materials to review how the mid- to long-term disaster support of the Red Cross Society should be, as well as to consider the activities of the nursing professionals in time of disaster.
These reports are downloadable from Project Report.
Voice of the People Involved in the Project:
The project was carried out by the nurses assigned from the Red Cross Hospitals across Japan as well as by the staff working at the JRCS and the College of Nursing. However, it was the participation by many stakeholders─including the Namie evacuees and their supporters, and those working at the relevant organizations─that propelled the project activities forward. The web page linked below features the interviews conducted with these individuals, including the officials of the Namie municipality and the Namie Mayor Tamotsu Baba, the Namie citizens displaced in Iwaki, the personnel working at the relevant organizations, the staff of the JRCS Public Health Room for Namie, as well as the people who were involved in the launch of the project at the JRCS and the College of Nursing.
Looking back on the Project:
Prof. Minako Morita
Associate Professor Mie Naiki
Prof. Minako Morita and Associate Professor Mie Naiki, who drove the project forward as leaders in charge at the College of Nursing, recount the 4.5-year support activities focusing on the following features:
- Features of the organization to meet the project objectives and formation of networks
- Health assistance activities carried out by the JRCS Public Health Room for Namie: Significance of the house-call activities to lend ears to the Namie evacuees
- Challenges in the management of the Public Health Room
- Care support for the medium-to-long term and assignment of the JRCS nursing personnel
- Management of the Salon and its significance
- The Health Survey: The 4.5-year Follow-up
- Challenges for the future: Things to relay
Looking back on the Health Interview Survey for People Evacuated from Namie Town to Iwaki City [PDF] (Available only in Japanese at the moment)