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Tokyo University to launch aggregate health data website

The University of Tokyo will start operating a website in December based on the health-related data of 67.73 million people in Japan, which is hoped will lead to the prevention of diseases, as well as the implementation of more appropriate medical costs.

    The website is based on data relating to health checkups, medical costs, and lifestyle gathered from 1,399 health insurance associations (covering 29.46 million people) as well as the Japan Health Insurance Association (38.27 million people) comprising small- and mid-size companies.

    The data will enable users to compare measures and the use of medical costs across different health insurance associations, as well as health status depending on variables such as industry and region. According to one expert, this is the first time for such a website to be launched anywhere in the world.

    The "Data Health Portal Site" has been created by the tentatively named "Data Health Research Unit," which is part of the university's Policy Alternatives Research Institute. The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has also contributed to the development of the site through funding.

    The site will provide information on disease-specific medical costs for illnesses such as cancer and high-blood pressure, as well as changes in medical costs according to year and age. It will also offer survey results relating to lifestyle items such as smoking and exercise, in addition to analysis of checkup results regarding parameters such as blood glucose levels and metabolic syndrome.

    Moreover, because site users will be unable to pick out the specific results for any one individual -- given that the data is aggregated -- there are no legal concerns such as a possible infringement of the Act on the Protection of Personal Information.

    From fiscal 2015 onward, the government has been asking health insurers across the country to provide a three-year "data health plan," consisting of an analytical summary based on health checkup data and statements of medical expenses. However, the plans were mainly compiled in paper form and had differing formats, making comparison and analysis problematic -- which in turn made it difficult to devise any new measures. Therefore, the electronic, integrated nature of the data health portal site should help solve this problem.

    With the new site, insurers are able to compile a data health plan by selecting options relating to numerical targets, as well as details concerning their planned health measures from fiscal 2018 to fiscal 2021. It is hoped that the site will continue to improve in the future, offering information on trends and measures simply by entering basic data. The link between staff illness and reduced productivity will also be analyzed on the site.

    Commenting on the new site, Yuji Furui, head of the research unit and visiting professor at Jichi Medical University said, "It will be possible to create new policies based on solid scientific proof relating to health. This is a huge social experiment."

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