In March 2011, Fukushima faced the worst-ever disaster in history. The triple disaster, earthquake, tsunami, and particularly the nuclear accident brought unforeseen public health challenges.
Major health concerns in addition to radiation contamination arose from social destabilisation, caused by fear of radiation exposure. Sudden, unplanned mass evacuation and long-term displacement contributed to the decline in mental and physical well-being of evacuees, especially the elderly.
The first priority after any catastrophic disaster should be to protect children’s health. As children are still in a developmental phase, prevention must be tailored to meet their specific endocrinological, mental, metabolic and nutritional needs. For example, after a nuclear disaster, communication with anxious parents also requires sensitive management and realistic, accurate information about risks and protective measures.
Since the disaster, local governments and researchers in Fukushima, with the aid of the national government, have worked on obtaining on-site information including health check-ups among evacuees; internal and external radiation exposure levels; thyroid cancer screening; interviews and questionnaires among mothers and other key informants. These data must be analysed to establish effective risk communication tools with children and mothers, considering both scientific validity and anxiety among the residents.
Five years after the disaster, the International symposium on disaster management and recovery for children and communities will develop a holistic picture of the health impact of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident and will put forward practical proposals on disaster risk management and risk communication for future catastrophic disasters.
The conference aims to:
- Establish a comprehensive overview of health problems caused by the triple disaster. By synthesising key experiences of radiation protection based on this unprecedented disaster, we will gain an in-depth understanding of the health risks and causes associated with a catastrophic disaster.
- Identify gap between the current emergency response plan and on-site health needs. By sharing activities conducted by non-governmental bodies, we can identify what is required to strengthen the current plan.
- Develop recommendations to achieve reasonable and practical standards of conduct in a catastrophic disaster. Through discussions with local agents, including mayors, clinicians, and researchers, we will recommend an effective plan for disaster management and risk communication to protect children’s health in the aftermath of a disaster.
More information on the symposium can be found here
Sae Ochi, MD, MPH, PhD
Director of Internal Medicine
Soma Central Hospital
Okinouchi3-5-18, Soma City, Fukushima 976-0016, Japan