From Harvard University


I came to Boston on January 14.  It’s been a long time since I was here before.  The purpose of this visit is to attend a conference planned by Prof. Lisa Berkman, Director of ‘Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies’ of Harvard School of Public Health (SPH) for two days on 15th and 16th.

The conference aims to discuss social determinants of health, which, in a sense, is a process for putting into actions the pertinent recommendations of the report of the WHO Commission for Social Determinants of Health (CSDH)(Ref.1). On the first day, we discussed what the major social determinants were, and on the second, we tried to identify issues and how to take them into account the situation as well as the determinants of each country.

Dr. Berkman, the host, Dr. Julio Frenk, the Dean, and Dr. Michael Marmot, the Chair of WHO-CSDH Committee delivered lectures which were all superbly done.

On 15th, we divided discussion groups by themes of; ‘Aging’, ‘Equity from the Start’, ‘Gender Equity’, ‘Health Equity in All Policies, Systems and Programs’, ‘Health People, Health Places’, ‘Political Empowerment’, and ‘Intergenerational Transfer and Social Protection’.

On 16th, we continued discussions by separating in the 8 participating countries of Brazil, China, India, Japan, Mexico, Uganda, United Kingdom, USA.

I served as leader for the Japan delegate consisting of Dr. Katsunori Kondo known for his work on studies of social determinants of health, Dr. Keizo Takemi, former Senior Vice Minister of Health, very productive in the field of global health policy,  and Dr. Soshi Takao; Professor Ichiro Kawachi,  who leads Harvard SPH Social Epidemiology. joined our discussion. We discussed issues of Japan by focusing on ‘Aging’, ‘Gender Empowerment’, ‘Suicide’, and ‘Poverty Index’.  Dr. Ikeda, a post-doc at SPH, served as Rapporteur; she has many years of study in US.

Eight countries participated in this new meeting which was apparently a new kind of effort in promoting CSDH, and I had a strong impression that the government of Great Britain had a clear commitment in drafting and executing policies on the basis of reliable data, the process which I was very envious of.  This process of UK was very much in contrast to that of Japan.

By the way, The Royal Society is celebrating its 350th anniversary this year and many events are being planned under the catchphrase of ‘The Home of Modern Science’.  I felt that Great Britain has rich history and tradition in the field of science (mind you, not ‘science technology’).

In the evening of 15th, we were invited for dinner at Loeb House of Harvard Yard (the center of the University.  Dorms where all freshmen stay, major libraries such as Widener Library, venue of the commencement ceremony are at this place).  Loeb House used to be (not for past many years) the residence of the President of Harvard University.

Library tomoko 090 

  Harvard yard 1 tomoko 092Harvard Yard 088
 Quincy House tomoko 082Another building of Quincy House tomoko 085
Photos: From top, Widener Library, two scenes from Harvard Yard, and two photos of Quincy House, one of student dormitories outside Harvard Yard

On 16th, about 12 people – not only people in medicine whom I am familiar with, but also students, post-docs, and faculty at Harvard and MIT in the field of natural sciences and engineering – had dinner together at Legal Seafood (photo below), a restaurant located behind the Charles Hotel where I stayed; we all enjoyed dinner very much. Some of the people have appeared in this blog postings (Ref.1, 2).

Dinner with Students Harvard
Photo:At Legal Seafood

A graduate student in physics, a medical researcher who came back to Boston after post-doc for a few years in Boston then once returned to Japan etc.  They are all working with high spirits.  As always, we shared good time together.  Those who have spent more than 5 years in the USA seemed to be struggling about which country (US vs Japan) to build their further career, but at the same time had strong desire to contribute to Japan in one way or other.  I see great possibilities in them although they will face many challenges on their further career building  It is very important to support and encourage these young people.

Although I was anxious about the weather in Boston because of the season, but fortunately, we had bright sunny sky all through the 3 days.