Managing obesity, Japanese style

So after making cracks about Strength through Joy last week, it appears that plans to change the health of the nation are happening. Not here of course, but the NY Times tells us about Japan:

Under a national law that came into effect two months ago, companies and local governments must now measure the waistlines of Japanese people between the ages of 40 and 74 as part of their annual checkups. That represents more than 56 million waistlines, or about 44 percent of the entire population.

Those exceeding government limits — 33.5 inches for men and 35.4 inches for women, which are identical to thresholds established in 2005 for Japan by the International Diabetes Federation as an easy guideline for identifying health risks — and having a weight-related ailment will be given dieting guidance if after three months they do not lose weight. If necessary, those people will be steered toward further re-education after six more months.

To reach its goals of shrinking the overweight population by 10 percent over the next four years and 25 percent over the next seven years, the government will impose financial penalties on companies and local governments that fail to meet specific targets. The country’s Ministry of Health argues that the campaign will keep the spread of diseases like diabetes and strokes in check.


Companies like Matsushita must measure the waistlines of at least 80 percent of their employees. Furthermore, they must get 10 percent of those deemed metabolic to lose weight by 2012, and 25 percent of them to lose weight by 2015.

NEC, Japan’s largest maker of personal computers, said that if it failed to meet its targets, it could incur as much as $19 million in penalties. The company has decided to nip metabo in the bud by starting to measure the waistlines of all its employees over 30 years old and by sponsoring metabo education days for the employees’ families.

Sounds like fairly vicious pay for performance to me!

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11 replies »

  1. If we did this in the U.S., I would favor national healthcare.
    I’m impressed on a number of fronts:
    1) The Japanese have recognized the dangers and costs of poor health related to obesity.
    2) More importantly, they’re doing something about it.
    3) There is a quick personal responsibility, trickle-down effect; federal insurance too corporation too the individual waistline too personal income.
    4) Goals and timelines have been established. We all know that without goals, nothing is achieved.
    5) The corporate working environments have been altered via introduction of increased physical activity during the workday.
    6) The Japanese are being encouraged to eat Japanese food (50% fewer calories than U.S. fast-food).
    Here in the U.S. the problems of health costs, obsesity and poor health dwarf those of the Japanese; yet I see no national advocates or solutions on the horizon. We all seem to be afraid to say: “You’re clinically obese, you’re killing our healthcare system, dooming our children, hurting our productivity and personally costing me a lot of money”.

  2. Great plan. For those of you posting complaints, dismayed at the “ethics” of this, get off your fat a&& and go for a walk. Your CPU will still be there when you get back.

  3. Obesity is a major problem worldwide. Awareness is required and to create awareness if govt launches some program it should be supported.

  4. While BMI provides a more detailed look at body composition, we shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss waist size; it can indicate risk of diabetes and heart disease. Measuring waist size and calculating WHR (waist-to-hip ratio) are also cheaper and faster than calculating BMI. According to Dr. Stephen Daniels, a professor and a spokesman for the American Heart Association, “Physicians are beginning to understand that abdominal obesity is an important part of risk for heart disease, but many in the lay public are not aware of that.”

  5. It doesn’t matter which metric is used, this program should never have come to fruition. It’s absurd to think that any measurement is going to accurately assess the overall health of a person. Furthermore, mandatory health checks of any sort are a violation of individual rights. Regardless of the potential “societal benefits” these are the types of programs that slowly snowball into bigger and bigger government intrusions.

  6. The U.S. weight reduction plan calls for skyrocketing gas prices forcing people to ride a bike or walk, and in conjunction, skyrocketing food prices to cut down on eating. And you thought gas and food prices were just incompetent mismanagement of resourses. :>)

  7. True, it should be BMI since meausuring their waistlines doesn’t take into account bone structure, height, etc.

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