Comprehensive Health Risk Management System for Public Health Centers to be Developed

Source: Health Industry Marketing News

The Regional Health Management Team in the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare of Japan published, on May 23rd, an interim report of discussions since last January on regional health management. The report has specified the policy to develop “a health risk management system led by public health centers”.

The report covers diet and health foods, including non-approved pharmaceutical ingredients, and states an intention to strengthen the function of public health centers and prefectural/municipal public health institutes not only in times of emergency, but also in ordinary times and after an event. Some examples of issues that public health centers must deal with in the future were mentioned, such as management of health risk cases where there is difficulty in initially identifying the cause.

Adverse events are reported to the public health centers by patients or doctors, and these centers then investigate the enterprises and analyze the toxic ingredients accordingly. The results are reported to the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, and the ministry gathers information and assesses the case. Under this present system, there were 9 complaints involving health foods brought to the public health centers in Tokyo in 2003 and 2004 respectively. This rather small number compared to the actual situation shows that not many medical professionals are able to help report cases to health centers.

In view of this situation, the government of Tokyo has placed emphasis on identifying and investigating the cases, and is planning to 1) develop a mechanism to share and use information from medical professionals on adverse events, 2) gather information to have an accurate grasp of the cases including those without definite causality between the health foods and the damages, 3) feed back information to medical professionals, and 4) secure opportunities and establish an organization to assess information where there is suspected damages.

It is considered urgent that other prefectures consider similar plans which would tie closely with the new system explained in the above interim report to obtain better results to reduce the number of events and damages.

Adverse events relating to the Chinese diet food product “Ten Ten So” are now a serious problem in Japan. There are a total of 25 cases reported so far from the different prefectures. With appropriate management and information sharing during the initial stages of the events, this situation might have been avoided. We hope that the health centers and medical professionals will effectively work together to improve the situation.

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