Research Summary – “Health Promotion and Working Women” (2016)

The Japanese government has recently been increasingly focused on women in the workforce as a key component of the national growth strategy. Industry is following suit through the implementation of various initiatives, including female recruitment action plans to increase the number of women in leadership positions and numerical goals to assess government and industry efforts. However, while the momentum surrounding women in the workforce continues to grow, there has thus far been a significant lack of attention to key health aspects that are essential to supporting women’s entrance into and sustained participation in the workforce.

Government-led strategies must include policies that recognize the vital importance of women’s health if empowerment of working women is truly the goal. As stakeholders consider the various policy options, discussions should include the social and economic impact that will accompany women-centered health promotion.

To support this dialogue, Health and Global Policy Institute (HGPI) in collaboration with Dr. Ataru Igarashi, Assistant Professor at The University of Tokyo’s Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, conducted research on the potential socio-economic impact of increased promotion of women’s health. This research describes women’s health and highlights current women’s health issues in Japan through international comparisons of policies related to women in the workforce and women’s health.

Summary of Selected Results

  • It is estimated that costs related to certain diseases specific to women have led to annual medical expenses and financial losses of at least 6.37 trillion JPY.
  • There is a significant relationship between quality of life (QOL), lost working time, and decreased productivity and the presence of women’s health
    related health issues.
  • According to study results, 20% of survey respondents visit a gynecologist regularly. More than 50% of respondents who reported not visiting a gynecologist regularly listed as their reason for not going to see a gynecologist as, “I am healthy, so there is no need to visit a gynecologist.”
  • Compared to other countries, women in Japan tend to engage in gynecological cancer screening less frequently. Countries with a high rate of
    gynecological cancer screening offer various support services including, financial support, general practitioners who encourage patients to engage in
    regular medical care, and call-recall systems.

Policy Proposals Based on Research Findings

1. Improve rates of visits to gynecologist and screening

Government (National and local government)

  • Add gynecological cancer screening to requirements of regular health checkups
  • Provide training programs about women’s health to occupational health professionals
  • Incentive physicians to provide additional consultations on women’s health


  • Encourage and support employees to get regular health checkups, including gynecological screenings


2. Enhance education and advocacy efforts

Government (National and local government)

  • Provide educational programs on the human body, disease prevention and treatment, and career planning with consideration to women’s and maternal health issues
  • Provide appropriate information on screening and the importance of gynecological care; provide accurate information about available options to treat menstruation-related symptoms


  • Provide learning opportunities for both women and men about influence of hormones, women’s health issues, women’s health matters that require special consideration, the female body’s unique characteristics, and the prevention and treatment of health issues women face


3. Promote Healthy Companies

Government (National and local government)

  • Add women’s health to the list of evaluation factors within the Healthy Company Index (In Japanese, this METI organized initiative is referred to as “Kenko-Keiei Ranking.”)
  • Research the financial impact of women’s health on companies and survey model cases of healthy companies that prioritize women’s health


  • Incorporate women’s health into efforts to achieve healthy companies