Great East Japan Earthquake: Let’s Prevent Economy-Class Syndrome!

Among those living in temporary housing after the Great East Japan Earthquake, there are many who have lost their jobs, are bereft of their hobbies and social connections with neighbors, and are living introvert lives. Many of these people also have significantly fewer opportunities for physical exercise. As a result, an increasing number are suffering from weakening in their backs and legs, and thrombi [plural of thrombus] in the blood vessels of their legs. Thrombosis, if left untreated, is a dangerous disease that can cause necrosis or sudden death, among other things.

Since April 2013, AAR Japan has been working together with Morioka City Hospital to conduct preventive medical examination and early treatment activities on Economy-class Syndrome (Evacuees Thrombosis) and Disuse Syndrome (Inactive Lifestyle), which are commonly seen in evacuees.

Many people arrived for the check-ups being offered. Most were elderly folk, who do not have many opportunities to undergo medical examinations. (Support Center Tomioka, Ofunato City, Iwate Prefecture, June 29th, 2013)

10 per cent require treatment
On June 29th, we held group medical examination sessions in three temporary housing locations in Ofunato City, Iwate Prefecture. In addition to doctors and nurses from Morioka City Hospital, volunteers from Fukui University and medical equipment companies were also present that day, making up a total of 39 medical staff. A total of 124 people, who live either at the venue or in one of the neighboring temporary housing sites, received check-ups. The participants received blood pressure measurements, an echocardiography of their blood vessels, exercise guidance and lifestyle guidance, among others. In addition, each participant had an interview/consultation with a doctor. Also, we distributed elastic stockings that help improve blood circulation to all participants, and gave instructions on how to use them.

Dr. Kazuhiro SASAKI of Morioka City Hospital said, “For patients we diagnosed in these medical examinations, we would write reference letters if they needed it so they can receive treatment at their nearby hospitals. On average, 10 per cent require treatment, and 30 per cent need extra caution.” Comparing the health data of the elderly population living in Morioka City with those living in temporary housing, the elderly residents in temporary housing have significantly worse health conditions.

Each of the participants received an interview with a doctor and could consult him on various issues. To the left of the photo is Dr. Kazuhiro SASAKI of Morioka City Hospital. (June 29th, 2013)
Deep vein thrombosis is an environmental issue. People who are living as evacuees tend to live in small and narrow temporary housing spaces, cannot go to work, have lower amounts of exercise, and refrain from going to hospitals. Thus, they are more likely to suffer from thrombus. Unless the town as a whole recovers, and people are able to start working again, any improvement of the current situation would be very difficult, and support is still needed. In temporary housing sites where there are instructions for regular exercise and events by volunteers, there tend to be fewer people with thrombus,” Dr. Osamu YAMAMURA of Fukui University told us.

 “The recovery of the town as a whole is crucial to the improvement of the current situation, said Dr. Osamu YAMAMURA of Fukui University. (June 29th, 2013)

 “I feel relieved that the doctor said I am OK”
One of the participants, a gentleman in his sixties, told us: “I have high blood pressure and am really grateful for these medical examinations. I think the best way to thank those who support us is for us to live healthily. Another woman we interviewed at “Support Center Tomioka” was 8 months pregnant. She seemed relieved, saying: “My legs are swollen, but I cannot get checked for thrombus in my prenatal condition. Today I am glad that the doctor told me,You are OK!’”

So far, the project has helped 1,043 people in 35 places in Iwate Prefecture. In the future, we plan to hold these medical examination sessions in Miyagi Prefecture and Fukushima Prefecture and will continue these activities until June 2014.

“I am really happy to receive this check-up because I have high blood pressure”; “Since many people who live in temporary housing are elderly and have little exercise, these projects are really important, said some of the people who came to receive medical check-ups together with their neighbors. In the center of the photo is AAR Japan’s Yuka OTA. (June 29th, 2013)
Ms. Mutsuko HIRAYAMA (right), who received preventive medical examination, and Yuka OTA of AAR Japan. Ms. HIRAYAMA came happily running up to us upon seeing our AAR Japan jackets and told us: “AAR Japan has always helped me, and I really consider them someone to turn to when I have any difficulty. I am really happy to meet AAR Japan staff. It has been a while.” (June 29th, 2013)

This project is made possible by your warm support and with the aid of the Qatar Friendship Fund.

The QATAR FRIENDSHIP FUND (QFF), founded in January 2012, is a fund of the State of Qatar to support the recovery of areas affected by Great East Japan Earthquake. It is operated under the supervision of His Majesty Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, former Emir of the State of Qatar, and is led by Qatar's Minister of Foreign Affairs H.E. Dr. Khalid Bin Mohammad Al Attiyah. H.E Mr Yousef Bilal, Qatar Ambassador to Japan, is the acting Chairman of QFF, and actor Mr. Tetsyuya BESSHO is its Goodwill Ambassador. QFF will provide 100 million USD funding for projects that address three main priority areas – “Child Education”, “Healthcare”, and “Fisheries” – from January 2012 to December 2014. QFF represents the hope and commitment of the State of Qatar, which will go forward hand-in-hand with Japan to help in the recovery of the areas affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake.

Click here to access the QATAR FRIENDSHIP FUND Official Website

Reporter (Profile as of the date of article publication)
Kaori YAMADA, AAR JAPAN Tokyo OfficeYAMADA has been in charge of Public Relations and Supporters at the Tokyo office since November 2007. Prior to joining AAR, YAMADA worked for 8 years with a Japanese NGO. She is a native of Shizuoka