A variety of factors determine the population’s state of health, such as general exposure to health risks, living habits, health education, as well as access to health care. The Japanese health care system is efficient and advanced, not least because of its high technological standard for medical equipment. Every Japanese citizen is eligible for medical treatment through universal health care with a coverage of 100 percent. In Japan, it is a legal requirement to have the health insurance provided by the government. About 70 percent of the medical costs are covered by the government and 30 percent by the patient. Closely regulated by the state, medical bills are usually affordable to everyone. Of the approximately 179 thousand medical institutions, people are free to choose a private or public hospital or clinic. Hospitals are by law required to be run as non-profit, they must be both owned and operated by physicians. There are about 53 thousand pharmacies, outnumbering the number of convenience stores, and around 141 medical institutions per 100,000 inhabitants in Japan.
The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare creates policies and programs for the establishment and maintenance of various systems for health, medical care and welfare services. Policies are handed down to local governments. Local government establish effective health service systems in cooperation with health/medical service agencies (public and municipal health centers, and other medical service agencies, such as hospitals). Each prefectural and municipal government has its own health and medical care programs based on MHLW policies. The administration of the prefectures and large municipalities is divided into several districts, which each have a public health center (hoken-jo). Public health centers plan, supervise and evaluate health programs in their responsible area.
In addition to the health system, the good health and long-life expectancy of the Japanese population are attributed to other factors. On the one hand is a lean and balanced diet consisting of mainly fish, seafood, whole grains, vegetables and tofu. On the other hand, the Japanese lead an active lifestyle which is encouraged and starts from an early age. According to a survey, most school children walk or cycle to school, and for most students, sports play an important role in life. For example, around 50 percent of children in Japan aged between four and eleven years engage in sports at least three times a week.