Okinawa to set up a council to restore prefecture’s exceptional longevity

September 6, 2013 Yoko Takaesu of the Ryukyu Shimpo

The Okinawa Prefectural Government will set up a prefecture-wide council to plan a movement to restore good health and longevity among Okinawans. It will consist of representatives of 50 to 60 organizations such as economic and educational groups, healthcare institutions, and local municipalities. The government will also invite construction industry organizations with large numbers of employees to take part. The council will exchange opinions with each affiliated organization and create an action plan for improving Okinawan citizens’ health. The council will be central to facilitating the government’s health promotion plan called Health Okinawa 21.

Demographic research conducted across the country in 2010 revealed that Okinawa had the worst mortality rate of people under 65 years old. The numbers were 27.5% for men and 13.3% for women. Early death and decline of health among wage earners from youth to middle age have become key concerns. Taking the issue seriously, the government expects to expand the movement to include small-scale businesses by involving industries in the council.

Hirokazu Higa, a vice counselor of the government Health Promotion Division said, “We cannot change this with existing administrative procedures.” He continued, “Okinawa has many obese people and a high mortality rate among its working population.” Higa said, “We want to work with our citizens and change people’s awareness of the issue.”

According to the government, there has been a prefectural council in place to promote a plan called Health Okinawa 2010. This council consisted only of healthcare organizations such as the Prefectural Medical Association.
Hachiro Sakiyama of the Public Health Department said, “We hope various organizations will take part in the prefectural council and want to make health promotion a prefectural-wide movement.”

(English translation by T&CT, Megumi Chibana and Mark Ealey)

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