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Am J Public Health. 2008 Apr;98(4):589-94. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2007.116012. Epub 2008 Feb 28.

Interplay of politics and law to promote health: improving economic equality and health: the case of postwar Japan.

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  • 1Department of Health Services, School of Public Health and Community Medicine, Box 357660, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195-7660, USA.


The health situation in Japan after World War II was extremely poor. However, in less than 35 years the country's life expectancy was the highest in the world. Japan's continuing health gains are linked to policies established at the end of World War II by the Allied occupation force that established a democratic government. The Confucian principles that existed in Japan long before the occupation but were preempted during the war years were reestablished after the war, facilitating subsequent health improvements. Japan's good health status today is not primarily the result of individual health behaviors or the country's health care system; rather, it is the result of the continuing economic equality that is the legacy of dismantling the prewar hierarchy.

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