BioScience Trends. 2015;9(5):275-279. (DOI: 10.5582/bst.2015.01125)
Human resources for health development: toward realizing Universal Health Coverage in Japan.
Akashi H, Osanai Y, Akashi R
Human resources are an important factor in establishing universal health coverage (UHC). We examined Japan's health policies related to development of human resources for health (HRH) toward establishing UHC, and tried to formulate a model for other countries wanting to introduce UHC through reviewing existing data and documents related to Japan’s history in developing HRH. In the results, there were four phases of HRH development in Japan: Phase 1 involved a shortage of HRH; Phase 2 was characterized by rapid production of less-educated HRH; Phase 3 involved introduction of quality improvement procedures such as upgrade education for nursing staff or licensing examination for physicians; Phase 4 was characterized by a predominance of formal health professionals. To encourage transition between these phrases, Japan utilized several procedures, including: (i) offering shorter professional education, (ii) fewer admission requirements for professional education, (iii) widespread location of schools, and (iv) the aforementioned quality improvement procedures. Japan was able to introduce UHC during Phase 3, and Japanese health indicators have improved gradually through these phases. Consequently, the government of Japan focused on increasing the quantity of HRH through relaxed admission requirements, shorter education periods, and increasing the numbers of educational facilities, before introducing UHC. Subsequently, the government began focusing on improving quality through procedures such as upgrade education or licensing examination programs to enable less-educated HRH to become fully educated professionals. For governments wanting to introduce UHC, the Japanese model can be a suitable option for HRH development, particularly in resource-poor countries.