International Medical Crisis Response Alliance: Progress and Challenges in Responding to the Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami
Thomas Hedberg, PhD, MSci
Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Managing Editor, PSYCHClinician.com
New York, N.Y.
The Alliance was developed to provide physicians and allied healthcare workers confronting natural or manmade disasters with instant access to critical medical education resources. Using a range of multimedia technologies, two primary websites, PsychClinician.com and PrimaryCareClinican.com provide a forum for medical education, resource sharing, and evidence-based best practice in the management of medical and psychiatric emergencies. In collaboration with a number of emergency response entities, medical schools and teaching hospitals, the system permits access to video mini-seminars and diagnostic/assessment tools provided by experts. Ultimately, SMS technology and printed reference documents will also available through the Alliance. Months after the disaster, the need for such resources remains strong.
Continuing medical concerns include PTSD, geriatric depression, MDD, obstetrics and neonatology, child psychology, radiation biology, and suicide prevention. Healthcare workers attending survivors should be well-versed in these areas, with psychosocial medicine a particular focus. Human loss from this disaster is 15,482 dead and 7,427 missing with some 75,000 persons still at evacuation centers or temporary housing. In many cases, the absence of livelihood and income means that the displaced are unable to move from these centers for 6 months or longer.
Evacuation center conditions are generally not good nor conducive to improved psychosocial health. In some centers 80 or more families live in a small area segregated by cardboard partitions with a lack of proper bedding. Many evacuation centers are in schools with ongoing programs. Over 50% of survivors are psychologically traumatized and continue to experience severe sleeping problems, chronic headache, abdominal pain/nausea, flashbacks and phobias. Younger children may be seriously disturbed by alterations in parental behavior and societal stature. Many survivors remain in a state of anxiety with stress disorders continuing to arise from disrupted routines, especially in the elderly. Survivor uncertainty about real or imagined radioactive environmental contamination is widespread. Finally, approximately 20-25% of school children affected have been displaced and have lost approximately half their friends and peer contacts.
As regionally-dedicated medical professionals become available in greater strength during 2011, their training will need to be commensurate with the particular needs of the affected population. The remediation of these needs is the primary focus of the physicians participating in this initiative.
Country: United States
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