OECD Reviews of Public Health: Japan

A Healthier Tomorrow

image of OECD Reviews of Public Health: Japan

This review assesses Japan's public health system, highlights areas of strength and weakness, and makes a number of recommendations for improvement. The review examines Japan's public health system architecture, and how well policies are responding to population health challenges, including Japan's ambition of maintaining good population health, as well as promoting longer healthy life expectancy for the large and growing elderly population. In particular, the review assesses Japan's broad primary prevention strategy, and extensive health check-ups programme, which is the cornerstone of Japan's secondary prevention strategy. The review also examines Japan's exposure to public health emergencies, and capacity to respond to emergencies as and when they occur.



Executive summary

In some ways, Japan’s public health challenges are distinct from those faced by other OECD countries. The rate of obesity is the lowest in the OECD, alcohol consumption is well below the OECD average, and the rate of smoking is slightly below the OECD average, even if this average masks a significant gender gap in smoking rates, with Japanese men smoking well above the male OECD average. Indeed, Japan’s life expectancy – 84.1 years in 2016 – is the longest in the OECD, and almost four years longer than the OECD average of 80.8 years. In other respects, though, the health challenges that Japan is facing are familiar to other OECD countries, for example a rising burden of chronic diseases. Other challenges will be felt even more acutely in Japan, in particular the rapidly aging population; in 2050 nearly 40% of the Japanese population will be over 65, and 15% will be over 80. Promoting healthy, disease-free aging must be a central priority for Japan, and attention must also be paid to the potential for rising rates of risky health behaviour, for example rising alcohol consumption, and even rising rates of obesity.


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