Participating in the TICAD6 in Nairobi – 3

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After the Noguchi Hideyo Africa Prize workshop, I went to a nearby hotel where a conference on Non-communicable diseases (NCD) was being held. I made good on a promise to deliver the keynote speech. After this talk, there was a panel discussion, which I had to leave halfway through  (the audience was made up of mainly medical professionals, and I received emails congratulating me on the unexpected but important nature of my talk) to get back to the Hilton in order to attend the GHIT meeting in the afternoon.

Here at this GHIT Fund meeting, Dr. Greenwood and Dr. Coutinho, recipients of the Noguchi Africa Prize, were also on stage, making the proceedings very lively. I arrived when the panel was already wrapping up, and after the closing words, we headed out to the poolside of the Hilton Hotel where the GHIT Fund had prepared a reception.

The special artist invited to perform during this reception evening was Anyango. She is a young Japanese woman who went to Kenya to learn more about the particular African music and instrument that had so captured her imagination. After years of hard work in an apprenticeship, she became proficient enough to earn the right to play instruments, a right traditionally held by men.

She had already been on worldwide tours to promote her music, with several albums to her name. When I had inquired to her managing office in Tokyo, they told me that she was scheduled to be in Kenya during the later weeks of August, which was perfect timing, so I put in a request for her to perform.

Anyango performed with a local band, and as the performance progressed, some of our guests from African contries, went from singing together to dancing, making it a memorable evening.

Recently, she was featured in a TV program in Japan.

After the reception, I spent some time unwinding with the people of the Cabinet Office over dinner, a small gesture of thanks for all the hard work that we had put into the Workshop. I also met some of the delegates from Japan.

It was a nice ending for an enriching and thought-filled time spent in Nairobi.


Participating in the TICAD6 in Nairobi – 2

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As I wrote in my earlier post, the symposium of the Hideyo Noguchi Africa Prize, where I am the chair, was held at the Nairobi Hilton on the morning of 26th August.

The symposium  was attended by three of the past four recipients of this award from the years 2008 (1st) and 2013 (2nd). Indeed, we relied heavily on the help of Dr. Miriam Were, who was one of the first recipients of this award, to get the cooperation of WHO-AFRO in organising this workshop.

Also, given the nature of the Hideyo Noguchi Africa Prize and its emphasis on public health of Africa, I made a special request Dr Were to invite young people who work in this area.

One of the defining features of the Noguchi Africa Prize is the emphasis on both public health and epidemiology and  in medical research relevant  in the African continent,. Thus,  past laureates include people like Dr. Were from Kenya and Dr. Coutinho from Uganda. These two in particular are wonderful role-models for aspiring young African people, and are held in high esteem. Another recipient of the award, Dr. Peter Piot, was unable to attend for personal reasons that are elaborated in the link to my address.

The venue could seat around 100 people, and was packed to the maximum with some people even standing. The energy in the air was palpable. My address was followed by a speech by a representative of the Health Minister of Kenya, a congratulatory speech by Mr. Shiozaki, the Japanese Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare, and then by  a representative of the WHO-AFRO Director.

We also showed a 6-minute video about the Noguchi Hideyo Africa Prize that was in English but simultaneously translated into French, with Japanese subtitles. This was followed by a keynote presentation by Dr. Were, and then a special Karate performance by the young people of the UZIMA Foundation created and led by Dr Were.

After a brief break, we had two panel discussions moderated by Dr. Greenwood (a laureate of 2008) and Dr. Coutinho (a laureate of 2013, both who infused the discussions with their passion for their people’s health as their major  work, leading to a lively discussion.

The Workshop started at 8:30 in the morning, and began by one hour session with abut 20 young African hesalthcare leaders. At the end of engaging two panel debates, one each from the young health leaders wrapped up the talks by providing a concise overview. The abilities of these students shone through and wowed the audience.

The whole event was wrapped up by a speech by Ichiro Aizawa, Head of the Japan-Africa Parliamentary Representatives’ Association.

I was impressed by the evergreen enthusiasm and determination of the laureates that seemed to flow  freely for the benefit of everyone. Perhaps this passion is what is most important character which leads  to after many years,  world-changing work.

More will follow in part 3.


Participating in the TICAD6 in Nairobi – 1

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The  Dementia meeting at Todai over, I headed home for a small break. The same night, (23rd August), I had to head to Haneda to catch my flight to Nairobi via Dubai.

This was going to be the first time that the TICAD (123), now in its 6th Conference, was going to be held in Africa. I was on my way to Nairobi to organize and attend 3 pre-events that would be held before the actual meetings on the 27th and 28th of August.

It was late at night but there was already a long line at the Emirates counter, and many are most likely they were going to attend TICAD. Indeed, it was the first time I ever saw such long lines for a flight to Dubai. I also met some colleagues who were headed to the same destination.

The people at the counter seemed a bit puzzled as well, and I heard whispered speculations about what the reason might be. Since it was not particularly a secret that we were going to attend TICAD, I struck up a conversation and explained the reason for the unusual crowd.

You never know what small conversations like this can lead to. It turned out somehow that I was upgraded to first class for the whole Haneda-Dubai-Nairobi flight! I was very lucky.

We reached Nairobi as scheduled, and I headed to the Hilton hotel.

The weather was great, with a summer resort climate similar to Karuizawa (Nairobi is at an elevation of around 1,800m above sea level), although it is important to be careful not to get lost in the multitude of people!

On the 25th, we went to see the preparations for the TICAD. and I participated in two meetings the following day (the 26th); one with the organising committee for the Hideyo Noguchi Africa Prize and the other with the GHIT fund personnel.

In the evening, I was invited to the home of Yoshiyuki Sato (in Japanese 1, 2, 3), a very successful business man who has been in Kenya for more than 40 years. I thought that there would be more invitees, but it turned out that I was the only one invited.

The two-storied house was built on an area of around 1000 square metres, and was surrounded by nearly 1.5 hectares of lush green land. I sampled some of his wife’s cooking, with almost all the food coming from the farm. The wine, the pottery, the flowers, everything. Except for the meat, which had been bought, but I was informed that they had a herd of around 500 cattle, which was destined for the market.

Living in such an expansive manner, whether it be in physical terms like the house, or in spirit,  must be liberating and a far cry from being cooped up in a crowded city. I think I understand this feeling.


Meeting about Dementia at Todai, and Heading to Nairobi the Same Night

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During the afternoon of the 23rd of August, I attended a meeting announcing that Japan would be joining the ‘A4’, a clinical research programme spearheaded by the US,aimed at operationalising the use of diagnostic imaging for the early detection of Alzheimer’s and then monitoring for a further four years. This announcement was made by Dr. Iwatsubo of  Tokyo University’s Graduate School Faculty of Medicine, at the Ito Memorial Hall in Todai.

I made the keynote speech about my participation in the World Dementia Council. The Ito Memorial Hall where I gave my talk was packed to its capacity of 200 people, and my talk seemed to rivet the audience’s attention.

I presented about the founding and subsequent developments of the WDC, also touching upon public-private partnership initiatives such as the EU’s EPAD and the GAP Foundation from the US. The main message that I emphasised a lot was that such platforms with a global outlook are something that we desperately need in Japan. I also tried to describe what the implications of such a platform would be.

It will be a big challenge to replicate in Japan the successes of the multi-stakeholder platforms I mentioned in the talk, but at the same time, I feel enthusiastic about meeting this challenge head-on.

A few days later, I received an email from the consul of the British embassy thanking me for the succinct explanation of the UK’s initiative in setting up of the WDC during the 2013 G8 Summit.


In Toronto Again!

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Its already the third time that I am visiting Toronto this year. This time, it was to attend a meeting of the World Dementia Council, the first meeting after being re-formed at the 2013 G8 Summit held in the UK.

This date was arranged to follow the week-long Alzheimer’s Association International Conference that was held a few days earlier in the same city.

As soon as I checked in at the hotel, I headed out to the ballpark where the local team the Toronto Blue Jays were taking on the San Diego Padres in an MLB game. The stadium was almost full, meaning that the only seats available were the very steep outfield (500 level) seats. I had to leave the game at the top of the 7th inning. When I opened the morning paper the next day, I found that the game had not only gone to the 12th innings, but that they had overcome a 2 run deficit to post an improbable and dramatic walk-off win. The home crowd must have gone wild! You can relive the game through the following links (link 1, link 2).

Returning to topic, at the first meeting of the new independent World Dementia Council, there were discussions of several recommendations for the agenda, a brief summary and an outlining of the transition process (1).

The WDC was till recently a council created under the purview of the UK government. This was the first meeting as an independent council, yet there was very little discussion about how the new WDC would seek to enact changes that would help distinguish it from its predecessor. There was a general emphasis of discussion about such strategic intent, and I provided my input based around these observations. I think that this repositioning from UK Government to an independent one will be more difficult than imagined, but one that will nevertheless lay the foundation for the identity of this very important group in the years to come.

As one of the nations with the highest levels of population ageing, how will Japan act in the coming years. At the G7 held in Ise-shima in May, A Vision for Global Health was outlined, and section 2-2-2.5 deals addresses the issue of dementia. Similar recognition is required at the G7 Kobe Health Ministers’Meeting. For the ‘dementia tsunami’is something that we can predict with a high degree of certainty.

I met a lot of people here including John Dirks from the Gairdner Foundation, and Peter Singer, CEO of Grand Challenge Canada, and also had the opportunity to meet Consulate General Nakayama at the embassy.

I also mention Dr. John Dirk’s name here to celebrate the fact that the Canada Gairdner Global Health Award ( one that Dr. Satoshi Omura, Nobel Laureate of 2015, received in 2014) that was started in 2009 has been renamed to honour him ahead of his imminent retirement from the Foundation.