Healthcare Information-Seeking Behavior of Evacuees after the Great East Japan Earthquake: A Qualitative Interview Study

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 3:30 PM
Room: 303
Oral Presentation
Haruka OTA , Department of Health Informatics, Kyoto University School Public Health, Kyoto, Japan
Kikuko MIYAZAKI , Department of Health Informatics, Kyoto University School of Public Health, Kyoto, Japan
Takeo NAKAYAMA , Department of Health Informatics, Kyoto University School of Public Health, Kyoto, Japan
Background: The Great East Japan Earthquake devastated the northeast Japan on March 11, 2011. This disaster was characterized by the combined effects of the massive earthquake and tsunami, and the nuclear power plant accident caused by the tsunami. Approximately 300,000 people had to remain evacuees still today (May 2013), having fled to other areas throughout Japan. Subsequently, the evacuees have faced various health problems. Building new relationships with healthcare resources is an important task. This study ascertains the process of healthcare information-seeking behavior of evacuees to restore the access to these resources.

Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 11 participants. They had been staying in City A in Kyoto Prefecture since the disaster and were recruited through an organization that assists evacuees. The interviews were conducted between September and November 2012. Data were analyzed using the constant comparative method of qualitative research.

Results: The participants were nine women and two men aged 30–82 years (median = 49 years). Three categories were emerged from the interview data: (a) seeking healthcare information from people around, (b) barriers to connect with others, and (c) community formation. The evacuees had formed relationships with the people from whom they sought healthcare information. In the early stage, community formation was hampered by overreaction to personal information protection by the local government. Women who had left their families and fled with their children out of concern for radiation damage found it particularly difficult to communicate with others. They were finding various opportunities to connect with others and committed to community formation.

Conclusions: The evacuees developed relationships with people in their new neighborhood, and sought healthcare information to restore their access to these resources. Assistance with community formation among evacuees has arisen as a new issue of public health.