• By Dartington SRU
  • Posted on Monday 13th April, 2009

Young science takes first steps East

Despite growing interest in proven US models such as Triple P and much interest in the West in the country's social fabric, relatively little has been reported on prevention science and its application to policy and practice in Japan. There may be a perception that Japan’s wealth, cultural homogeneity and low inequalities – the lowest among G20 nations – render most evidence-based programs redundant. True enough, compared to the US and some EU states, prevention policies are under-developed, but the situation is changing.Japanese people live long, and the child population is proportionally at the lowest level since estimates began; less than 14% of the population are 14 or younger.If the UNICEF Report Card is taken as a guide, Japanese well-being falls somewhere between the top and the middle of the distribution range. The Japanese have the lowest teenage fertility rate in the world and the second lowest infant mortality rate. Fewer than three in every 1,000 live births result in death before the first birthday.Educationally, too, the Japanese do well, with the fourth highest scores in reading, math and scientific literacy, a performance roughly analogous to Australia, Canada and Finland. Socially the situation is less clear. On some UNICEF indicators there is a suggestion that levels of loneliness are running high, but in truth the data point more to the need for better epidemiology than to a need for intervention. There is a stereotype that portrays children as working extremely hard in school and suggests that suicide rates are high as a result. The adult suicide rate is one of the highest in the world and twice that in the US, but just 608 young people aged 19 and under resorted to suicide in 2005, giving a quotient of two in every 100,000.So there is much for prevention scientists and activists to do in Japan, not least in helping to portray conditions and trends in the country more accurately to the scientific community farther west. Earlier this year Prevention Action reported on the systematic review by Shin-ichi Ishikawa from the Faculty of Education and Culture, University of Miyazaki. Tomorrow Dr Ishikawa reports on exploratory work to use school based cognitive behavioral interventions to relieve depressive symptoms in young people. The theme continues on Wednesday with a look at the role of social skills training programs in schools. Readers may be surprised to learn that proven models well known in the US and Europe are being tried in Japan. On Thursday Prevention Action reviews tests of the Triple P parenting program.The week concludes with a commentary by Michael Little, Prevention Action’s Executive Editor. Throughout the week he will be reporting on meetings with child development and prevention experts.It is hoped that this brief exploration of prevention in their country will encourage Japanese experts to contribute to Prevention Action with articles or blogs, in English or in Japanese.

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