The Department of Public Health, Division of Preventive Medicine, Hokkaido University, Graduate School of Medicine
Professor Akiko Tamakoshi
Graduate of the School of Medicine, Nagoya University and Nagoya University Graduate School of Medicine Professor in the Department of Public Health, Hokkaido University, Graduate School of Medicine since April 2012.
Former Associate Professor in Nagoya University Graduate School of Medicine, Clinical Trial Control Manager at the National Center for Geriatrics and Gerontology, and Project Professor in the School of Medicine, Aichi Medical University
The goal of the Department of Public Health is to produce evidence to help realize a society in which all people, from unborn babies to the elderly, including those who are healthy and those who are suffering from diseases, can live physically and mentally healthy lives; and to translate this evidence into practical activities and the design of social systems. To achieve this, we carry out epidemiological studies, specifically long-term follow-up studies and intervention studies on factors causing health problems, in order to propose preventive measures. However, to achieve this, the long-term cooperation of a wide range of people is necessary, thus, we must conduct our research by visiting a wide range of sites and communicating with many different people.
Mt. Fuji was recognized as a World Heritage Site in July 2013. In December, albeit with less fanfare than that of Mt. Fuji, ‘Washoku, the traditional dietary culture of the Japanese,’ was also recognized by UNESCO, as an Intangible Cultural Heritage. ‘Washoku’, as proposed to UNESCO, is defined as the food-related social customs associated with the Japanese spirit of ‘respect for nature,’ and does not refer to any specific dishes, such as special tea-ceremony dishes served at Japanese-style restaurants, or those served on special occasions. However, not all the dishes customarily eaten by the Japanese are part of Washoku. Washoku, as proposed to UNESCO, has the following typical features:
● Various fresh ingredients, used with their natural taste
● A well-balanced healthy diet
● Emphasis on the beauty of nature in the presentation
● Connected with annual events such as the New Year
(Source: Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries website)
There are many studies on the impact of eating habits on health. For example, the finding that excessive salt intake can cause high blood pressure, and thereby increase the risk of cerebral hemorrhage, led to the launch of nationwide campaigns aimed at reducing salt intake, which have proven to be very effective. Many experts also warn against eating too much fast food and junk sweets, because foods with a high fat-to-energy ratio can cause lifestyle diseases such as obesity, arteriosclerosis, etc. However, as people do not only eat a single specific foodstuff, the impact of specific foods on health must be studied in detail, and more research needs to be carried out on the interaction between foods, such as food combinations, etc. As suggested among the features of Washoku, in addition to nutritious intake, the act of eating is intimately connected to family and community interaction. Thus, it is important to study the health impact of various food-related factors, including the hour and duration of mealtimes, the people with whom we enjoy eating, etc., as well as that of foodstuffs themselves.
As Washoku was registered as an Intangible Cultural Heritage, it is important to consider how to preserve and pass on such cultures to the next generation. Hokkaido Prefecture is comprised of 179 cities and towns with a wide variety of industries such as rice and farming, dairy, fishing, tourism manufacturing, etc. With a historical background typified by the cultivation of new land, Hokkaido has an abundant mix of regional Japanese cultures. The elderly account for 24.7% of the total population, which is higher than the national average of 23.0%, but also means that many people are available to pass on their culture to the next generation. Hokkaido has the highest calorie-based self-sufficiency rate of food supply in Japan, at 191%, indicating that Hokkaido supports Japan through its primary industry (agricultural production at 12%, marine fishery and aquaculture production at 19%, etc.). However, Hokkaido is only the 4th-largest prefecture in terms of the amount of food production, leaving room for improvement in processing, distribution and sales, in addition to the production process itself. The results of studies in Hokkaido on health, centering mainly on foods, will be beneficial to the whole of Japan.
The Department of Public Health is looking for individuals from various backgrounds to carry out research from a wide range of angles. Collaboration not only with medical professionals such as doctors, public health nurses, nurses, pharmacists, physical therapists, etc. but also with specialists such as managerial dieticians, clinical psychologists, social welfare workers, etc., as well as sociologist, lawyers, economists, etc., is essential.
We welcome those wishing to join us.
publichealth＠med.hokudai.ac.jp (To send your email, change the “＠” to a single-byte character.)