Friday, February 6, 2009

Waistline Law and the Monitoring of Society

Last June, the New York Times published an article discussing Japan’s latest efforts to make public health an issue that was backed by law. Loosely referred to as the waistline law, Japanese companies and cities are required to take waist measurements of people within specific parameters in order to combat obesity in the country.

While many Americans would ultimately fail the strict guidelines for waistline measurements established by the law in question, many Japanese are simply on the cusp of what is referred to in Japan as “metabo,” a word that has become slang for obese, without all of the harsh connotations.

Metabo actually refers to metabolic syndrome, a condition which is said to contribute to diabetes and other vascular complications. Obesity, especially abdominal obesity, along with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high glucose levels are all named as factors in metabolic syndrome.

In specified cities, 65% of individuals between the ages of 40-74 on public health insurance had to meet very specific waistline measurements—or face the challenge of reducing inches in order to comply with the new law. The waistline measurement requirements for men were 33.5 inches or less and 35.4 inches or less for women.

While this effort is a proactive step in the right direction toward minimizing health care costs related to metabolic syndrome, many people see the necessity to comply with this law as another way to privatize health care costs. Individuals will have to work on maintaining their frames if they don’t want to be placed on a government-regulated diet.

Detractors view this as an unnecessary precaution and a serious invasion of privacy. Notices were distributed to all citizens in various locales who matched the criteria put forth by the government. Those who didn’t appear were to be summoned a second time.

In all, the effort being put forth by the Japanese government is one that is trying to bring public health concerns to the forefront of the national psyche. However, many believe that harsher laws and taxes could be levied against tobacco, which is still used by a large number of the population, despite its status as an advanced nation. After all, tobacco use also contributes to being metabo.

For now, enforcement will run slowly, with percentages of people meeting the guidelines increasing to 25% by 2015. This may be plenty of time to get things back into shape, but for many people in Japan, it seems like a lot of time, effort, and resources for a marginal priority.


*This post was contributed by Holly McCarthy, who writes on the subject of Careers in criminal justice. She invites your feedback at hollymccarthy12 at gmail dot com

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