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Project HOPE: Chronic Health Needs Persist After Tsunami

Project HOPE medical volunteers are reporting that services in areas devastated by Japan’s earthquake and tsunami remain basic, with patients’ medical needs still a major concern, underlying the need for outside help until the local health systems can be reestablished.

A new rotation of Project HOPE volunteers arrived in the tsunami-struck Miyagi Prefecture in Japan to assist local health care professionals with chronic health needs as recovery efforts continue.

The Japanese-born volunteers and residents of the U.S. say they are fulfilling both a desire and duty to assist local medical professionals who are seeing thousands of patients in shelters and in homes in remote areas with little access to health services.

“I really wanted to help my country. I was born and raised in Japan and my family and friends are still there,” said Sonomi Kawasaki, a registered nurse from Orange, California.

“The situation is now in the post-acute phase, but there is a great need for medical professionals to care for people in the disaster area, which is still in terrible condition.”

Project HOPE, a U.S.-based global health education and humanitarian assistance organization deployed twelve volunteers recently in support of the Japan Primary Care Association’s Disaster Relief Project in Miyagi Prefecture (Ishinomaki and Kesennuma cities).

Kengo Inagaki, a Japanese-born pediatric resident from Brooklyn, New York, provided medical assistance as a Project HOPE volunteer in a shelter in Kesennuma City, housing 400 people. He said there is still much debris in the area and some patients are suffering from anxiety as the recovery process continues. Inagaki emphasized the need for long-term medical personnel in the area.

“The areas affected by the tsunami had a scarcity of medical personnel before the disaster. Ideally the local physicians should provide long term care, but many primary care physicians in the affected area are still struggling to provide medical care. Support from the outside is crucial until the local medical system is rebuilt,” said Inagaki.

“We have a keen understanding of the challenges that lie ahead for Japan. Project HOPE staff and volunteers are committed to assisting the leadership of Japan establish its new medical system strategy, as townships, cities and regions are restructured and service areas are reclassified into an integrated health system of clinics, hospitals and tertiary referral centers,” said John P. Howe III, M.D., President and CEO of Project HOPE.

Project HOPE recruits volunteers globally. Japanese speaking health professionals who meet recruiting standards, credentials, and specialty needs will be considered for deployment, regardless of where they live. Prospective volunteers are invited to visit their site, click on Volunteer Tab, and look for “Operation Rising Sun” for details.

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