In wake of Japanese earthquake, HSPH experts discuss humanitarian response, radiation risks

HSPH faculty and alumni were quick to respond with medical and relief expertise during last year’s massive earthquake in Haiti. But in the wake of the current disaster in Japan, a wealthy country with a largely intact medical infrastructure, the needs and concerns have been very different.

“People sort of expect that there will be a large international humanitarian response, but there’s not much need for general responders,’’ HSPH’s Michael VanRooyen, director of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative and emergency medicine specialist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, told The Boston Globe.“We’re looking to mobilize people, but only if they are absolutely appropriate.’’

HSPH alum John Boice, SM’74, SD’77, an international authority on radiation’s effects on human health, spoke to NPR’s All Things Considered about the potential risks of leaks from a quake-damaged nuclear power plant. Evidence currently suggests that the amount of leaked radiation has not been enough to be dangerous, Boice said, but there is still cause for vigilance. If the contamination were to become more widespread, it could lead to cancers and other health problems in the surrounding population for decades, he said.

Link to Boston Globe article

Link to All Things Considered recording and transcript

Learn more

John Boice profile (Harvard Public Health Review)

Harvard Humanitarian Initiative