National / Politics

Japan to emphasize its health care aid at next G-7 summit

Kyodo

The Abe government is considering emphasizing measures to help spread basic health and medical care in developing countries as one of its foreign policy priorities when Japan hosts the Group of Seven summit next year.

A draft of the government’s 2016-2020 strategy in the health and medical field, to be adopted soon, highlights promoting universal health coverage, a goal defined by the World Health Organization as ensuring that all people have access to essential health care services at affordable prices.

While Japan has been giving priority to maternal and child health and infectious disease control in its international health policies, the new strategy would emphasize the importance of health care for people of all generations, from babies to seniors.

The government will “consider promoting UHC when making contributions in the area of international health” at the Ise-Shima summit next May 26-27 in Mie Prefecture, the document says, using the acronym for universal health care coverage.

Health minister Yasuhisa Shiozaki, at a news conference Friday to announce that the G-7’s health ministers will meet before the summit in Kobe, suggested that universal health coverage will be on the agenda.

Japan, whose people are among the world’s longest lived due in large part to its universal health insurance system, has promoted UHC since 2013, when it put that objective in its diplomatic strategies on international health. But its efforts so far remain little recognized.

Under the new strategy, Japan would launch programs to train public health experts in developing countries and increase financial aid for conventional assistance for such areas as opening clinics and providing medical supplies.

As a prelude to this strategy, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe offered Kenya ¥4 billion in loans for health projects when President Uhuru Kenyatta visited Tokyo in March.

While poverty and insufficient facilities and materials often prevent people in developing countries from accessing essential health care, diabetes and dementia are also growing into serious problems due partly to malnutrition and aging populations, government officials said.

Japan aims to strengthen health and medical systems through the developing world to help deal with these problems, they said.

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