Dr. Evelyn Bromet Uses Lessons from Chernobyl to Help Shape Response to Radiation Exposure in Japan

Stony Brook University Distinguished Professor Evelyn Bromet, PhD, presented an invited talk at the International Expert Symposium on Radiation and Health Risks in Fukushima Japan on September 12. The symposium, which featured 30 experts on radiation and health from around the world, was organized by the Nippon Foundation to help guide its response to the radiation exposure at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station following the Great East Japan Earthquake six months earlier.

In a session on lessons learned from the Chernobyl accident, Dr. Bromet pointed out that the mental health impact of Chernobyl for adults is clear, long-term and tied to risk perceptions. She noted that many physicians in Ukraine who treated patients exposed to radiation fueled concerns unnecessarily by linking health problems to radiation exposure indiscriminately.

She recommended that the Nippon Foundation assess the needs of high risk groups for targeted interventions, integrate mental health measures in medical surveillance to reduce stigma and improve reporting, and educate primary care providers to recognize and manage health anxiety, depression, and impairment in daily functioning.

The Nippon Foundation plans to use the expert advice gained from the discussions to develop a Fukushima Residents Health Management Survey and to establish new global measures for radiation safety and protection. The organizers of the conference singled out Dr. Bromet for special recognition and pledged to integrate mental health items into their medical surveillance activities.

Dr. Bromet is a member of the faculty of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science at Stony Brook University. She is one of the world’s leading experts on mental health epidemiology and the mental health impacts of nuclear accidents.