Developing countries are studying health measures used in Japanese schools, such as regular body measurements, lunch distribution and the use of school infirmaries, to promote the health of their own schoolchildren.
Every year, the Chubu International Center of Japan International Cooperation Agency arranges visits by foreign delegates to examine Japan’s elementary schools.
One one recent visit to Nishiharu Elementary School in Nagoya, the visitors took great interest in the duties of the school nurse, known as “yogo” in Japanese.
“What is that used for?” asked one.
“It’s a liquid to highlight dental plaque on the tooth surface so we can see which areas need more brushing,” replied chief nurse Hatsuyo Matsunaga, 57.
The participants’ questions continued from there.
“Under what circumstances will you use the emergency bag?”
“Where do you store the records of the students’ body measurements?”
JICA has been organizing such trips for the past nine years. This year’s 10 attendees included officials from Asia, Africa and Central America. This year’s stay lasted 40 days. In that time, they toured various educational facilities and attended a lecture in Aichi Prefecture on the School Health and Safety Law.
“Things that we take for granted seem to be a novelty to them,” said 41-year-old Makoto Iwase, manager of the training department.
In Europe and the United States, doctors and nurses visit schools to help children, but in Japan, it is the schools that are in charge students’ health.
Some developing countries follow European or U.S. protocols, but insufficient funds and manpower make it difficult to do that on a nationwide basis.
According to professor Masanobu Kondo from Gifu University, Japan has paid special attention to children’s health since the Meiji Restoration in 1876.
Compliments from the attendants included, “The way you manage the health records here is amazing,” and “I see you supervise their hand washing before lunch.”
JICA hopes the programs can be used to further promote the use of health teachers. Many developing countries that succeed in lowering their infant mortality rate tend to focus more on the issue of health care for children.
“I think we will see even more countries who would like to improve their school health system from now on,” said Yoshihisa Yamazaki, 58, from Aichi Children’s Health and Medical Center, who planned the itinerary for the training.
However, students in foreign schools in Japan, such as Brazilian or Korean schools, are not required to take medical checkups. The School Health and Safety Act only covers public and private schools registered under the School Education Law.
Out of 12 Brazilian schools in Aichi Prefecture, only five carried out checkups in 2013, including body measurements, vision and hearing tests and urine examination.
Some schools, such as Hakujin School EAS Toyohashi, have had to borrow equipment from other nearby schools to conduct these checkups, while some Brazilian schools such as in Hamamatsu in Shizuoka Prefecture and Gunma Prefecture have to rely on volunteer doctors from universities.
“Foreign children are not getting the same benefits. There is a limit to what volunteers can do,” said Yoshimi Kojima, 40, associate professor at the department of eduction at Aichi Shukutoku University. She urged the situation be improved for these schools.
This section, appearing Saturdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published on Aug. 5.
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