The Sankei Shimbun learned on Aug. 17 that the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare is considering the establishment of a post for a healthcare specialist – equivalent to administrative vice minister – who will serve as the arbiter for healthcare policies. Should the role be established, this official will be a civil servant and licensed medical doctor, modeled after the U.S. surgeon general, the highest government position in the field of public health. The government expects that the Japanese surgeon general will be responsible for a wide range of tasks such as disseminating Japan’s healthcare policies globally and crisis management.
The ministry intends to incorporate the establishment of a surgeon general into FY2017’s request to change the number of assigned officials. The establishment of a new vice minister post requires organizational reformation, including the elimination of other senior-level ministerial positions. The ministry is coordinating with other ministries and agencies on the matter.
The U.S. surgeon general is the highest position of the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps (PHSCC). The surgeon general plays a central role in the field of public health, as evidenced by the first report released in 1964 on the risks of cigarette smoking. “As a medical authority, the surgeon general has considerable clout in the medical community,” said a ministry official. (Abridged)