FUKUSHIMA Lives on the Line

227chap.IVPatient Relief Activity Records [Essays and Research Publications]FUKUSHIMA: Lives on the LineArticles from The British Journal of General Practice are provided here courtesy of Royal College of General PractitionersOn March 11, 2011, disaster struck Japan. A magnitude 9 earthquake followed by a tsunami hit the east coast of Tohoku and Kanto. Thousands of people have been killed, more people have been left homeless, and the headlines around the world now give their attention to the damaged nuclear reactors in Fukushima. This disaster poses particular challenges for Japan and symbolises a more general dilemma for health professionals observing around the world.In Japan, relief efforts have focused on rescuing trapped or stranded people, evacuating those in unsafe areas, and providing basic shelter, water, food, and medicines. Despite establishing the emergency management committee and activating 120 field units,1 the government has faced some criticism for not acting more swiftly following the disaster.2 The evolving figures are shocking. On April 12, 2011, Reuters reported that 13,843 people were confirmed dead by Japan's National Police Agency, while 14,030 were missing.3 It was reported that 136,481 people remained in shelters, with the majority of the 70,000 people previously living in the 20 kilometre nuclear exclusion zone thought to have left their homes. A request for international aid has been issued. The challenge faced by rescue workers includes poor access to affected areas, flooded hospitals, an older population, and growing fears about the safety of food and water supplies.3 Potassium iodine tablets are being distributed to limit the impact of radiation exposure.4That such a nuclear problem should befall Japan, considered one of the exemplars of ‘safe' nuclear power, has prompted many other countries to take note.5 In the coming months more details will inevitably emerge regarding the details that led to the nuclear accident. However, despite the understandable concern about the Fukushima nuclear reactors, some have argued that a disproportionate amount of media time has been spent covering the explosion, as opposed to the human tragedy of those killed, injured, and displaced by the earthquake.6Br J Gen Pract. 2011 June; 61(587): 376–377.Disaster in Japan: A New Medical GazePatrick Hutt Clinical Associate, Salaried GP and Deputy Editor InnovAiTRyuki Kassai Professor and Chair, Department of Community and Family Medicine, Fukushima Medical UniversitySTRENGTH OF FAMILY MEDICINE IN FUKUSHIMAFor many involved in general practice, it is particularly sad that Fukushima has overnight become known for a disaster when it had been slowly fostering a reputation for very different reasons. Fukushima, a rural and industrial area that has traditionally struggled to attract enough doctors to serve its aging population, now boasts one of the first structured family medicine training programmes in Japan.7 As such, it has received a number of international visitors interested to see how a generalist approach fares in one of the most high-tech hospital dominant countries in the world.6,8In the subsequent days after the first earthquake, trainees in family medicine at Fukushima Medical University, spread around the small communities of the prefecture, were communicating again by teleconference. They have been working hard in the forefront of care at community-based hospitals and clinics. At their regular teleconference sessions, the forum in which they normally meet for teaching sessions, family medicine trainees shared the common challenges faced in the