Activity Report of Open Application Course vol.18
Creating a foundation for protecting the health of workers in Fiji
Report from the University of Occupational and Environmental Health, Japan
The Univ. of Occupational and Environmental Health, Japan (UOEH) is the world's only university that focus on industrial health for protecting the health of workers. For a seven-day period from December 4 to 10, 2017, the UOEH held a program for a total of 11 participants (8 undergraduate students, 2 graduate students, and 1 supervising faculty member) from the College of Medicine, Nursing & Health Sciences at Fiji National University. The program was made possible by the SAKURA Exchange Program in Science.
Fiji has a weak infrastructure for occupational health. Accordingly, the recent program was held in response to Fiji National Univ.'s aim to cultivate professionals who will protect the health of workers. During the program, the Fijian students and instructor toured actual occupational health systems in Japan, receiving a first-hand experience on the meaning and importance of occupational health.
The average temperature in Fiji in December is 25 degrees Celsius. Upon arriving at Fukuoka Airport, the group from Fiji was thrilled to experience the cold of winter. The group then traveled UOEH.
The following day, the program started with a greeting from the President of UOEH. Snow started to fall during the opening ceremony, and participants gazed at the fluttering snowflakes as they took part in the ceremony.
The program was composed with a balance on lectures, tours/observation, and hands-on experience.
The lectures introduced a wide range of topics including the history of occupational health in Japan, theory on industrial medicine systems and occupational health systems, measures for preventing occupational illnesses such as occupational cancer, and measures for dealing with mental illness in the workplace.
The group also visited a laboratory at the UOEH's Center for Stress-related Disease Control and Prevention. Participants had their own stress level measured through a simple examination. The students were extremely interested, becoming both glad and sad depending on their individual results.
During factory tours, instead of simply observing occupational health systems, students were asked to imagine themselves as actual industrial physicians and occupational health staff. Following, the tour they engaged in discussion regarding the type and location of danger sources in the workplace. In addition to studying occupational health theory, they also conducted practical exercises.
On the fourth day of the program, the Fijian group participated in a stand-up buffet party with the UOEH President and student volunteers. The lunch was a wonderful opportunity for exchange among Japanese and Fijian students.
The closing ceremony was attended by many faculty and staff members from UOEH. Following the ceremony, all the Fijian students performed a traditional dance dressed in special clothes that they had tailored just for the occasion. It was a memorable experience for everyone involved.
On Saturday, in order to experience traditional Japanese culture, the group visited Kokura Castle and other sites in the City of Kitakyushu, home to the UOEH.
Throughout the program, the supervising faculty member provided attentive instruction, and we were impressed by the seriousness and intensity of the Fijian students.
The supervising faculty member during the program was Dean Donald Wilson. Professor Wilson spent at total of 11 years at the UOEH, first as a graduate students and then as an instructor. After returning to Fiji, he has worked tirelessly to cultivate a foundation for occupational health in Fiji. Fiji National Univ. and the UOEH are engaged in talks aimed at starting joint international research, and the recent program provided a basis for future progress. As we said goodbye to the group from Fiji, we felt hope that participation in the SAKURA Science Program will give birth to more outstanding professionals like Professor Wilson.