Delegation for health checkups of A-bomb survivors in North America reports on latest mission

by Junpei Fujimura, Staff Writer

On October 29, the delegation of the Hiroshima Prefectural Medical Association that returned to Japan after conducting health checkups of A-bomb survivors (hibakusha) residing in North America held a news conference at the Hiroshima Prefectural Government. Their report on the results of the health checkups carried out in North America indicates that 394 people received checkups this time. Shizuteru Usui, president of the Hiroshima Prefectural Medical Association and the leader of the delegation, summed up the results, saying, "As hibakusha are aging, the number of those who receive the health checkups is decreasing. But a lecture, our new attempt, received a favorable reception."

The members of the delegation divided into two teams and visited a total of four cities, including Los Angeles and Honolulu, in September and October. The health checkups were provided to 323 hibakusha and 71 second-generation hibakusha. The total number of those who had the health checkups decreased by 32 people in comparison with the previous health checkups conducted two years ago. The average age of the hibakusha was 76.2 years old.

After the checkups, it was decided that a woman in her 70s, a resident of Hawaii who is suffering from lymphedema, would come to Japan and receive treatment at the expense of the Japanese government. Several other survivors are also considering a visit to Japan.

About 100 people attended the health lecture held in Los Angeles. Dr. Makoto Matsumura, the executive director of the Hiroshima Prefectural Medical Association, offered guidance on how to improve dietary habits, among other things. The delegation said that many participants requested that such a lecture be held again in conjunction with health checkups in the future.

The health checkups of hibakusha in North America have been conducted every other year since 1977 and this is the 17th round of checkups. A total of 6,391 health checkups have been provided in North America so far. "The oldest local volunteer involved in supporting the health checkups is over 80 years old," said Dr. Usui. "Fostering others to succeed them is our challenge for the future."

(Originally published on October 30, 2009)