The IMCRA-sponsored international colloquia which have been conducted to date reflect considerable progress in enhancing medical services to the people of Tohoku. There were three conferences held in 2012 and two more are being planned for 2013. Onsite registrants have regularly self-identified as physicians, public health nurses, community services coordinators/teachers, and the general public, with the representation of each approximately 25%.
The first conference dealt with the challenges to international cooperation in providing general medical and psychological assistance to the people of Tohoku. The second dealt specifically with radiation psychology and physiology throughout Japan. The third dealt with long-term healthcare issues specific to the people of Miyagi prefecture. Colloquia held to date have attracted in all, nearly 500 attendees, both onsite and via remote hookup. The most recent conference was held under the auspices of and in coordination with the Nihon Sekijuji, or Japanese Red Cross. Its International Director of Operations, Dr. Toshiharu Makishima delivered the keynote address. An important accomplishment of this conference was recognition of a serious problem, called "kodokushi" in Japanese and one that is not unique to Japan, but which is increasingly seen a year or two after the event in populations living with the sequelae of life-changing cataclysms.
Kodokushi is best translated as "The Lonely Death" and is a phenomenon, along with increased suicide, which seems to be endemic to elderly populations whose way of life has been utterly wiped out, and whose familiar surroundings have been replaced with temporary and makeshift facilities. Despite the heroic efforts of those seeking both medical and psychological intervention in these populations, the death rate from depression, anxiety-related conditions and neglected physical ailments remains high. Many elders go into a state of social withdrawal and can be monitored only with an exceptional degree of effort.
The third IMCRA colloquium explored these issues and presented some novel answers in the person of faculty like Dr. Harada of the visiting nurses association, Dr. Homma of the Miyagi Children's Center and Dr. Yonekura of the kokoro-no-care center in Fukushima. A unique overall perspective was provided by Dr. Suzuki who spoke about the elderly phenomen on a Japan-wide basis. Drs. Hedberg and Saito (who presented remotely via a videoconferencing connection) brought the statistical and demographic elements of the problem into focus.
The IMCRA site captures all the colloquia held to date, the interactions of discussants, the poster galleries from the meetings and associated educational materials. The site is currently being substantially enhanced to enable visitors to have the greatest latitude in accessing colloquium presentations as well as our baseline videos sorted by medical specialty. A major reconstitution of the system is presently underway and should be completed by the end of January 2013.