Japan, land of the rising sun, is globally recognized for many unique contributions to our global culture – sushi, kimonos, bowing and sumo wrestling to name a few. Another area in which Japan is becoming a global leader is through the work of the EIM Japan National Center. Formally established on July 5, 2018, EIM Japan is hosted by the Japanese Association of Exercise Therapy and Prevention (JAETP) under the leadership of National Center Director Dr. Yutaka Kimura and National Center Manager Professor Shinji Sato. A recent confluence of factors – advocacy, opportunity and alignment – have pushed the work of EIM Japan to the forefront of health and well-being at a national level.
One of the first goals for EIM Japan was to establish partnerships with local and national health agencies. The first of these relationships was with the Japan Sports Agency and its Director, Dr. Daichi Suzuki, a former Olympic gold medal swimmer. Dr. Suzuki was so impressed with the initiative that he brought members of the Sports Agency to participate in the 2019 ACSM Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida. Since this initial exposure, he has become one of the biggest supporters of EIM Japan, opening doors for the national center throughout the country. A second key supporter is the Tokyo Medical Association, an influential health society in the largest prefecture (state) in Japan. Chairman Haruo Ozaki was so impressed with EIM that he now mentions the program in all of his talks, increasing awareness to physicians throughout Tokyo.
As advocacy for EIM Japan grows, Governor Yuriko Koike of the Tokyo Metropolitan government has embraced the potential role of EIM in creating a world class, healthy metropolis. In a speech to the congress of her prefecture, she discussed how health promotion in Tokyo is in line with the mission and vision of EIM. Although there are no definitive plans in place at this time, the support of such a major politician in the largest prefecture of Japan opens the door of opportunity to expand the role of local physicians, increase referrals to community physical activity resources, link health care providers and exercise specialists and increase the number of steps that residents take each day.
Seeking to build on this opportunity, Professor Sato and Dr. Torii implementing a pilot project involving public baths, a traditional Japanese custom and a valuable social and cultural meeting place for elders. As part of their pilot, healthcare providers are encouraged to refer and connect their older adult patients to the public baths where they can participate in various physical activities. Instead of bringing older adults to new and unfamiliar locations to be active, they are bringing physical activity to a safe and trusted location.
This successful advocacy and new opportunities would not amount to anything without proper alignment between the needs of the country and the preparedness of the EIM Japan National Center. Even before the coronavirus pandemic, EIM Japan was developing a mobile application to provide remote physical activity opportunities, which perfectly aligns with the opportunity and need for virtual physical activity guidance for patients. The application will link health care providers to exercise specialists throughout the country, creating a bi-directional flow of information. Additionally, they are producing specialized video content (i.e., yoga customized for individuals with diabetes) that is being adapted for promoting physical activity in diverse populations. The plan is for the application to go live by the end of May.
In just two years’ time, EIM Japan has taken tremendous strides with their regional and national advocacy, lining up key champions, forging relationships with important health organizations and developing tools to fill growing opportunities for their aging society. We are extremely proud of the success EIM Japan National Center has had and look forward to even more accomplishments in the future!