Establishing health priorities in Japan

health priorities in japan
© Sean Pavone

Open Access Government investigate the current and future health priorities of Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, including an increasing focus on cancer research

The mission statement of Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW) is “for people, for life, for the future.” It was formulated to serve as “the pillar for promoting the MHLW staff to be unified in their resolve to realise the ideal of health, labour, and welfare administration supported by the public.”

The phrase succinctly expresses the idea that the Ministry undertakes the responsibility of protecting people and their lives not only in the present but also for the future. To achieve this vision, the MHLW follows four principal guidelines which are outlined below:

  • Carrying out all tasks in a fair manner, by high ethical standards.
  • Providing administrative services in response to the demands of the public and times.
  • Acting from the standpoint of individual citizens.
  • Aiming for an open government, by widely providing information in an accessible, easy to understand manner.

To put these action guidelines into practice, the Ministry also makes sure to consider the following when conducting daily tasks.

  • Carrying out work efficiently and quickly by approaching our job with pride and a sense of responsibility.
  • Finding issues through a sense of initiative and working together to reach solutions.
  • Striving to keep up the level of ability and never stop improving.

MHLW has been promoting “Life Innovation” through the creation of innovative drugs and medical devices originated in Japan, by considering the Government’s New Growth Strategy and Comprehensive Reform of Social Security and Tax Systems. The objectives of “Life Innovation” are to maintain a society with a healthy population, thus contributing to economic growth by strengthening global competitiveness. Tamura Norihisa is the Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare, and has been leading the Ministry’s response to the COVID-19 crisis. The Minister’s priorities for health over the coming months are ensuring that the population is fully informed when considering asymptomatic COVID-19 and cases of muted COVID-19 strain. In September 2021, MHLW updated its guidelines with “11 things you need to know NOW about COVID-19.”

“The Ministry undertakes the responsibility of protecting people and their lives not only in the present but also for the future.”

Cancer control measures

One-third of Japanese people die from cancer every year. Although cancer control in Japan has made significant progress, cancer remains an important issue in people’s lives and health both in Japan and all over the world. To further improve cancer control, the following goals have been established by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare in controlling cancer in a comprehensive and systematic manner. Substantially decreasing the prevalence and death rate of cancer through the comprehensive promotion of research, prevention, and treatment is the ultimate goal.

In addition to promoting specialised, multidisciplinary, and comprehensive cancer research, dissemination and further expansion of the results of research with the aim of overcoming cancer, Japan’s Ministry is working hard to help cancer patients receive the appropriate treatment based on scientific knowledge regardless of the region in which they reside.

Furthermore, it is a priority to establish a system that provides medical cancer care in which the treatment is selected according to the situation of the patient and respect is paid to their own intentions. Prescribing responsibilities of the government, local governments, health care insurers, the public, and doctors, is also vital to effectively supporting patients with cancer.

Japan has outlined a Basic Plan to Promote Cancer Control Programs as part of the “Cancer Control Act,” by consulting the directors of relevant organisations, including Minister Norihisa, who formulated a draft of the Basic Plan, and then requested a Cabinet decision. A Cancer Control Promotion council within MHLW was then established, outlining that the basic plan aims to:

  • Promote prevention and early discovery of cancer
  • Promote equal access to cancer medical services
  • Steadily promote cancer research

It is clear to see that Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare is working tirelessly to support national health, be it an ongoing battle against cancer or an unexpected global pandemic such as COVID-19.


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