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How to extend healthy life expectancy. What can local governments do for health?

Simply put, healthy life expectancy is the age at which a person can lead a healthy life without the help of anyone. This article introduces the difference between healthy life expectancy and average life expectancy, the importance of healthy life expectancy, and effective ways to extend healthy life expectancy. The national government is promoting a project to extend healthy life expectancy, and efforts are also required at the local government level.

Long healthy life expectancy is proof of true health

No matter how long you live, if you become bedridden or require nursing care, your quality of life will decline significantly. In order to prevent such a situation, it is important to extend healthy life expectancy.

What is healthy life expectancy?

Healthy life expectancy is the period during which a person can lead an independent life without any health problems, and is different from average life expectancy. It is a concept proposed by WHO (World Health Organization) in 2000, with the challenge of how to extend it. The average life expectancy is not the average age of death, but the average life expectancy that a 0-year-old child can live.

Unreduced gap between average life expectancy and healthy life expectancy

According to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare’s 2020 White Paper on Health, Labor and Welfare, the average life expectancy in 2016 was 80.98 years for men and 87.14 years for women. In other words, men spend 8.84 years and women 12.35 years living their daily lives while being bedridden or receiving nursing care. In 2001, it was 8.67 years for men and 12.28 years for women, and this gap has widened slightly.

Importance of extending healthy life expectancy

Life expectancy is expected to continue to increase as medical technology advances. Therefore, if healthy life expectancy is not extended beyond the average life expectancy, the period during which daily life is restricted will be extended, which will not only lower the quality of life of the individual, but also increase the burden on family members who provide nursing care.

There are also concerns about pressure on national finances due to rising social security costs such as medical and nursing care costs, and extending healthy life expectancy is an urgent issue for Japan.

National initiative “Healthy Japan 21”

What is “Healthy Japan 21”?

In 2000, the government launched a national health promotion movement in the 21st century called “Healthy Japan 21” to extend healthy life expectancy. The first phase ended in 2012, and the next step in the 10-year plan from 2013 to 2022, “Healthy Japan 21 (second phase)” has started.

In order to achieve this, it is important for each citizen to take the initiative in promoting health. Therefore, the government has set the following five goals in “Health Japan 21 (second term)”.

1) Goals to extend healthy life expectancy and reduce health disparities

2) Goals to thoroughly prevent the onset and severity of major lifestyle-related diseases

3) Goals to maintain and improve the functions necessary to lead a social life

4) Goals related to the development of a social environment that supports and protects health

5) Goals related to lifestyle habits and social environment improvement related to nutrition/diet, physical activity/exercise, rest, drinking, smoking, and dental/oral health

In addition, in order to raise people’s awareness of health promotion and encourage them to take action, it is important not only for the government but also for society as a whole to provide support. Therefore, it is necessary for local governments to identify local health issues, think of ways to solve them, and create and promote health promotion plans that set goals.

For example, information for preventing and improving lifestyle habits, such as disease prevention methods, health checkup schedules, and healthy and delicious cooking classes, is posted on the websites and public relations media of many local governments.

<Examples of initiatives by local governments>

・Holding health gatherings at health centers and setting up consultation corners with doctors, dentists, and pharmacists to support health promotion.

・Held health-related lectures and proposed how to eat vegetables that are highly nutritious and delicious.

・Conduct a survey on eating habits and propose a menu based on the survey results. Guidance on improving eating habits, such as campaigns to offer discounts on menus with more vegetables at cooperating stores in the region.

・Promote walking by distributing pedometers and smartphone apps free of charge, and offering prizes through lottery based on the number of steps taken.

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