Japan has instituted one of the most serious campaigns in the world to get its citizens to be fit. This action is motivated by the rapidly aging society’s ballooning health care costs, as most Japanese are covered under public health care or through their employment.
The term “metabo,” comes from the medical concept of “metabolic syndrome,” i.e., the factors that heighten the risk of developing vascular disease and diabetes. They are: obesity, high blood pressure, high glucose, and high cholesterol. The term “metabo” has become the nation’s nickname for “overweight.”
Under a two month-old national law, companies and local governments must measure the waistlines of people between the ages of 40 and 74 as part of annual checkups. That amounts to 44% of the population of Japan.
The International Diabetes Federation’s (www.idf.org) guidelines for Japan of no more than 33.5 inches for men’s waistlines and 35.4 inches for women is being used as the standard. When folks are over those measurements and have a weight-related ailment, they will be given dieting guidance and education.
The government will impose financial penalties on companies and local governments that fail to meet these targets. NEC, a Japanese personal computer production company, said to the New York Times (6/13/08) that if it failed to meet its targets, it could incur almost 20 million in penalties.
A survey by the National Center for Health Statistics in the U.S.A. found that the average waist size for Caucasian American men was 39 inches, a full inch smaller than the 40 inch maximum established by the International Diabetes Federation.
Ladies didn’t do as well: the average waist size of Caucasian American women was 36.5 inches, about two inches above our threshold. (The differences in thresholds between Japanese and Americans and men and women have to do with height and body type).