Japan has the longest life expectancy in the world, with people on average living to 86 years of age. This impressive achievement is in part due to the diet that many Japanese people enjoy.
I was in Tokyo this week for a roundtable discussion on the Global Nutrition Report. The room was full of around 80 participants from the Government of Japan (the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and the Cabinet Office), parliamentarians, civil society organisations, representatives from the UN and World Bank, and representatives from the private sector. The report has clearly attracted some attention here.
It was evident from the discussion that Japan sees nutrition as key to sustainable development and human security. This point was encouragingly reiterated time and time again. It was also clear that many in the room recognise the need to maintain the international momentum around nutrition, citing opportunities such as Japan’s presidency of the G7 in 2016 and the commitment to use the Tokyo 2020 Olympics to improve nutrition.
Keizo Takemi, a senior politician and influential player in global health in Japan, wrote the foreword for the Japanese Global Nutrition Report. In it he says: “There is a need to maintain international momentum around nutrition. I hope that Japan will engage in further work around nutrition. Tokyo 2020 will be an important moment to enhance the position of nutrition in policies and plans in Japan.”
Japan has been a supporter of nutrition for many years. It was one of the first investors in the Scaling Up Nutrition movement and today the country is the fourth largest contributor of overseas development assistance to nutrition in the world.
One fact that seemed to grab the attention of those at the roundtable was a finding from the Global Nutrition Report that for every $1 invested in nutrition, the return is $16. Clearly investing in nutrition is a smart investment – and the Japanese government understands this.
The government of Japan is proud of its public–private partnerships and is keen to share this experience with the world. If these partnerships take place in the context of multi-sector, multi-stakeholder platforms for nutrition, which the government reiterated its support for at the event, then they will add great value to efforts to address malnutrition.
It was very encouraging to see so many government ministries and stakeholders coming together for the Global Nutrition Report launch in Japan. Coordination of these stakeholders will be key if Japan is to make the most of the opportunities ahead.