Wayo Exchange in Japan (Week 3): Thursday

This morning we attended Reiko’s Clinical Nutrition Lecture. Today’s specific focus was on Chronic Kidney Disease. Throughout the lecture portion of the class the students followed along with what Reiko was lecturing by highlighting and writing keynotes in their textbooks. Once the lecture topics had been covered, the students independently worked on a case study following the SOAP method that we, as Brescia students, also recognized. The activity involved role play in groups of 2, one as the client and the other as the dietitian. During this time we worked on the same case in English with Sainaa and Momoko. We discussed comparisons between Canada and Japan’s standards for anthropometric, biochemical, clinical, and dietary data. We all brought forth great conversation and we had fun talking about something that we all have a strong passion for and interest in. Once we had worked through the case as much as we could without using their reference handbooks that were in Japanese, we showed gratitude to the students as well as Reiko for allowing us to attend their class.

In the afternoon we met Ikuko at the Konodai Station bound for Hikarigaoka. After 3 weeks packed with amazing experiences we have grown increasingly appreciative for our guides through the subway and railway systems. We are especially thankful for the amount of energy, organization and care Ikuko-san has put forth into our schedule. It is because of her and other Wayo staff that we have been able to see so much of the Japanese culture in 3 short weeks that none of us had imagined to be possible. Once we had arrived in Hikarigaoka after following Ikuko through the maze of a subway system so quickly, we walked to the Public Health Center in Nerima, Tokyo.

At the Public Health Center we were welcomed by the Dietitian who introduced us to the process that we were a few short minutes away from observing. Masako met us there and joined us for the day. Masako has been wonderfully kind translating for us throughout the past 3 weeks. She makes sure that when people are having a conversation in Japanese to involve us by letting us know what is being said, what concerns are being shared and what information is valuable.

Today the Public Health Center was hosting an event for 3 year old toddlers. In each distinct local government, parents receive a notice of invitation for their child to attend this event when they are approaching their 3rd birthday. The government mandates a health check for children 1, 3, 6, 12, 18, 24, and 36 months old. Mothers receive a medical booklet to track the growth throughout the first 3 years of their child’s life and this allows the government to also keep records and statistics of the youngest population. First, a Dental Hygienist presents the importance of teeth brushing and interactively demonstrates how to brush them properly. Second, a registered Dietitian presents to both the parents and children on the importance of involving their toddlers in grocery shopping and in the kitchen. She asked the parents to get their child to pick out a fruit, a vegetable and milk while at the grocery store in order to introduce them to nutrition. She also asked parents to begin to involve their 3 year old in cooking practices and emphasize food safety. It was so interesting to see how well structured and appropriate this process was for children to begin learning about their own health. Third step was a one on one counselling with a Public Health Nurse. The nurse followed a questionnaire for each child to cover basic information but she also allowed the parent to address their concerns to make the conversation more personalized to the child. Step four was for measuring the child. The next step we observed involved a medical examination by a physician. The final stage we observed was for the children to have their teeth cleaned by dental hygienists and checked thoroughly by a dentist. About 30 children were in attendance all at once, which also meant siblings and parents too. This process was so very well organized and truthfully it looked fun for the children – at each stage there was a different activity for them to be entertained.

At the end of the day, we were able to ask questions about the process and express our appreciation for allowing us to observe their event. Today we had learned so much more about how important the health maintenance of Japanese citizens is to the government of Japan.