Activities of Health Policy Institute and its ‘Surprising’ Evaluation


Several years ago, I founded with a few friends a think-tank ‘Health Policy Institute, Japan (HPIJ)’ and have since been working with my colleagues who share the same vision.

As you may see in our web site, the Institute, as an independent, non-profit, non-partisan private think-tank, we have focused on three areas;  to provide platforms, basic data, and issues for policy discussion, to facilitate the participation of civil society groups and patients in the policy making process, to nurture leadership of the civil society, and Global Health.  I am happy to say that people with talents and commitments on our common goals have joined and are working with us, including young people who work with us as part of their career.  In short, our activities could be described as an effort to encourage Japan’s shift to civil society hence promoting the change of Japan of global world to a responsible civil nation.

We gather at a breakfast meeting once in every two months that function as an opportunity for communication with the members and supporters of our Institute.  It has become a custom for me to greet and speak to the participants at this meeting every January.  Each and every one of the members are committed to improve health care system in their own way.  So, this time, for a change, I suggested my session be primarily ‘Q&A’, but asked the audience to raise questions based not on their jobs and positions but from objective critical observation of their positions.  It might have been a bit difficult for them because this suggestion came up without prior notice.  However, I would like to stress the importance of making it a habit of seeing things objectively and from higher/broader perspective, outside from your background, expertise and position ? especially in policy making.  I recommend that you always try to see objectively as much as possible as I stated in ‘Japan as seen from outside’ and elsewhere, and to think and comment on ‘A part of a big picture’.  I have written on this in a book review also. (3rd paragraph, in Japanese)

HPIJ just organized our annual ‘Health Policy Summit 2010’, a two days’ conference on February 10 and 11.  I will report about this in detail soon, but it was a very lively conference with presence of cabinet members of DPJ (Democratic Party of Japan; the administration party);  AKIRA NAGATSUMA, Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare, YUKIO EDANO, Minister of State for Government Reform (was appointed just February 10th), MOTOHISA FURUKAWA, Senior Vice Minister for Economic and Fiscal Policy, Science and Technology Policy, and Government Reform, and Parliamentary Secretaries including KEISUKE TSUMURA, in charge of Science and Technology Policy.  Representatives from DPJ legislators Ms YOKO KOMIYAMA, Dr MITSURU SAKURAI, and Dr SATOSHI UMEMURA.  Representatives from LDP (Liberal Democratic Party) legislators were Mr JIRO KAWASAKI (former Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare) and Mr HIROSHIGE SEKO.  From New Komeito, another polictal party, include former Vice Minister FUKUSHIMA of Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.  Large number of people from health care sector, patient organizations, academia, business sector, mass media participated to join in vibrant discussions.

By the way, I would like to report to you a very good news, which came in such a no-better timing of our annual conference.  The University of Pennsylvania publish its annual report on the ‘Think Tanks’ of the world.   Evaluation of Universities is talked about in many occasions in recent years, but this is ranking of ‘Think Tanks’.  For 2009, the top think tank in the world was ‘Brookings Institution’, but in the category of ‘Health Policy’, 1. Harvard University School of Public Health; 2. Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University… the list went on as expected…but in the 10th place our ‘Health Policy Institute of Japan’ ranked-in!  I was so surprised to see this, but at the same time thought that this was the result of everybody’s hard work.  Also the high valuation reflects our daily effort of making our activities visible to broader audience of Japan and the world involving various global partners through our website and other means.  ‘Think Tanks’ of governments may outnumber non-governmental ones in many countries including Japan, so ours was a great result.  For this yet young and small ‘Think Tank’, completely independent from the government, to receive such a high evaluation was certainly a great encouragement to us all.