Health care in Japan - statistics & facts

Japan has one of the healthiest populations with one of the highest life expectancies both for women and men worldwide. It has one of the lowest infant mortalities, as well as maternal mortalities. The three major causes of death in Japan are age-related illnesses such as malignant neoplasms, heart diseases, and cerebrovascular diseases. However, the mortality rate from heart diseases is the lowest among OECD countries, at about 31 deaths per 100,000 population.

Health care system

A variety of factors determine the population’s health, such as general exposure to health risks, living habits, health education, as well as access to health care. Every Japanese citizen is eligible for medical treatment through universal health care with a coverage of nearly 100 percent, and medical costs are strictly regulated by the government. A minimum of 70 percent of healthcare costs are covered by health insurance provided by the government or an employer. The remaining 10 to 30 percent are typically paid by the patient, depending on the financial status of the individual. People are free to choose to be treated by any private or public medical institutions, which total approximately 179 thousand facilities. Hospitals are required by law to run as non-profit and must be both owned and operated by physicians. Health administrations of the prefectures and large municipalities are divided into several districts and each district owns a public health center (hoken-jo). Public health centers plan, supervise, and evaluate health programs in their responsible area.

Prevention of diseases

Companies in Japan must provide periodical medical checks, such as tests for eyesight, hearing, hepatic function, and blood lipid level, at least once a year to their employees. Public health centers also offer free health examinations for people aged 35 years and older. Additionally, all educational institutions up to tertiary schools conduct annual general health checkups including dental health, appendicular health, tuberculosis, among others. The Ministry of Health also strongly suggests taking vaccination for “A type diseases” such as diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, polio, hepatitis B, Hib, tuberculosis, and pediatric pneumococcus starting from the second month from the birth.

In December 2020, the government amended the Immunization Act, originally enacted in 1948, following the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the country. According to the amendment, the government will cover all expenses for the vaccination against COVID-19 and compensation of illnesses connected to side-effects of the vaccination. The government began the COVID-19 vaccine administration in February 2021, mainly for health professionals. The vaccine rollout for the general population commenced in April, starting with citizens aged 65 and older. Almost nine percent of the population were fully vaccinated as of the beginning of July 2021.

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