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Departments of Health and Social Behavior


Professor Hideki HASHIMOTO, MD, Dr.PH
Associate Professor  Dr.Naoki KONDO has moved to University of Kyoto School of Public health as of September 1st, 2020
Lecturer Daisuke TAKAGI
Associate Masamitsu KAMADA
Introduction and Organization
The department originated as one of the first departments dedicated to health education and behavioral science in Japan, led by Prof. Emeritus Tadao Miyasaka, who had double degrees of M.D. from the University of Tokyo and MPH in health education from Harvard School of Public Health in 1950s. He was succeeded by a sociologist, former Prof. Kyoichi Sonoda who founded the first health sociology department affiliated with the medical school in Japan. Since then, the program has been leading research focusing on socio-behavioral aspects of health in this country.

The legend was extended by Prof. Chieko Kawada who raised academic and practical attention on the concept of empowerment and adult pedagogy in health education. Since 1997, the department was further evolved by Prof. Ichiro Kai who integrated diverse health and social science disciplines into social gerontology program, and by Associate Prof. Yoshihiko Yamazaki who led sociological research projects on salutogenesis, social stigma, power, and agency in health settings. The departments were reorganized under the newly established School of Public Health since 2007.

In 2012, the Department of Social Gerontology has been renamed the Department of Health and Social Behavior to apply a life-course perspective to a wider range of social conditions and human wellbeing.The new department intends to further integrate health science (medicine and public health) and social science (economics, sociology, and psychology) to reveal a causal mechanism linking social structure and individual health for realizing health equity as a fundamental goal to human security.

Teaching activities
The departments offer three courses in the master degree program for public health, and seven courses in the undergraduate program for the Integrated Health Sciences track.

1. Graduate Courses, School of Public Health

      1) Health and Society I & II:
      The course highlights the significance of social determinants of health (SDH) as a key exposure causing social gradient of health. A series of omnibus lectures, each of which focusing a specific topic of SDH (e.g. income distribution, gender, job stress, and discrimination), are provided by invited lecturers specialized in the field.The course is followed by course II which offers application of concepts into practice through in-class discussion and group works.

      2) Health Education:
      The course provides basic knowledge on relevant behavioral theories for health promotion and behavioral modification, followed by case method learning on health educational intervention in community, school, and work places. The case discussion was facilitated by invited lecturers to reach practical lessons for effective communication.

      3) Health Sociology:
      Sociology in medicine and sociology applied to health issues are treated in the systemic course of lectures, covering social model of health, medical gaze and socialization of health professionals,phenomenology of chronic ills, and culture and health.

2. Undergraduate Courses, School of Integrated Health Sciences

      1) Introduction to social survey and practice:
      The course emphasizes that needs for specific knowledge and subsequent research question define the modes of survey. The course gives the students a virtual situation where a social survey is required to obtain data to support some decision making, e.g. market research situation. The students are asked to define an inquired concept, refine a research question, design the mode of survey, and conduct a small pilot survey within the class. The survey results were reported with some practical implication, and were opened to in-class discussion.

      2) Health sociology:
      The course was offered as a part of “Health and Society” in the academic year of 2012.

      3) Health education:
      The course was offered as a part of “Health Education” in the academic year of 2012.

      4) Social security and welfare program:
      Lecture series on the history and the current systems of health care security and welfare policies in this country.

      5) Occupational health management:
      Lecture series on risk/needs assessment, strategic management of health resource, and health promotion intervention in work place.

FY2016 was the beginning of new curriculum that provides three majors in the School. For Public Health Science track, a new lecture course “integrated lectures of public health science” was offered for the sophomore students expected to join the School. The department was also responsible to offer a new lecture/practicum course on scientific writing, logic, and rhetoric.” As such the department contributed to extend educational environment in the new frame of School curriculum policy, and management of educational duties with limited resources became a challenge.

Research activities
The Department has contributed to an ongoing research of socioeconomic status and health/functions among elderly population in the collaboration with the School of Economics of the University of Tokyo and the Research Institute of Economic, Industry, and Technology. The Japanese Study of Ageing and Retirement (J-STAR) is a sister study with the U.S. Health and Retirement Study, Study of Health, Ageing, and Retirement in Europe (SHARE), England Longitudinal Survey of Ageing (ELSA), and their global sisters in Asian countries. The scope of JSTAR is diverse; contribution of health for successful ageing, social economic conditions and access to health care, household economy and its impact on life styles such as eating habits and nutrition, impact of retirement onto cognitive function, etc..,

Since 2010, the Department has launched another panel study of younger generation, the Japanese study of Stratification, Health, Income, and Neighborhood (J-SHINE) in collaboration with researcher groups on neuroscience, economics, sociology, and social psychology.
The aim of this comprehensive panel study is to identify a mechanism how socio-economic environments get to “under-skin” to cause social gradient of health across socio-economic positions. In the year of 2011, the JSHINE conducted a supplemental survey to respondent’s spouse and children. Main and supplement surveys were followed in 2012 and 2013, respectively. Obtained panel data are made open to a broader range of researchers under the data-control committee, to share analytic scheme and to enhance inter-disciplinary studies so as to better identify common factors as well as unique factors affecting health inequality in Japanese context.

In 2015-2016, third follow-up for children was conducted to specifically evaluate child’s dietary habit change after a policy intervention in one of participating municipalities, which found a significant improvement in vegetable intake among children in an intervention municipality compared to their counterpart in other cities. Dr. Kondo also is an active and leading core researcher in another large cohort for social epidemiology in gerontology, called Japan Gerontological Evaluation Study (JAGES) that covers more than 30 municipalities and approximately 200,000 participating old people in the community. The project purports to reveal social relationship and its impact on health in later life.

The team has been developing community diagnosis tool using JAGES data to support participating municipalities to effectively find leverage population for policy intervention, with support from AMED and other funding sources. The developed tools are expected to be disseminated and standardized for wider use in municipalities.