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Fukuda Cabinet E-mail Magazine No.27 (April 17, 2008) ============================================================

"A society in which people can feel secure about having children. This is Yasuo Fukuda."
-- Message from the Prime Minister
(Provisional Translation)

Prime Minister Yasuo FukudaProfile Japanese

A society in which people can feel secure about having children. This is Yasuo Fukuda.

This past Monday, I visited the National Center for Child Health and Development in Setagaya Ward, Tokyo.

The Center is a hub of advanced obstetrics and pediatrics. There, I was able to inspect facilities such as the newborn intensive care unit (NICU), and also observe systems such as the pediatrics emergency care system, under which priority diagnoses and treatment are provided to children who are most urgently in need of them.

Dealing for the most part with high-risk births, the Center has recently seen a great number of appointments made by women enjoying healthy pregnancies following the closing down of the obstetrics department in a major local hospital.

I learned that the number of patients using emergency pediatrics services is on the rise despite the recent decrease in the child population. Particularly at night and on holidays, more and more people are availing themselves of emergency hospitals such as the National Center for Child Health and Development.

I also came to understand that an increasing number of obstetricians and pediatricians are leaving the hospitals because of the heavy physical and mental burden the work imposes. A vicious circle results, as the doctors who remain find themselves having to shoulder an even greater burden.

Dr. Tatsuo Kato, the Director of the Center, has worked in pediatrics for many years. He explained that although Japan's overall shortage of obstetricians and pediatricians is not putting too great a burden on the Center, which has outstanding facilities and staff, regional hospitals are less able to cope with the shortage, which causes them serious problems.

"Parents these days have come to expect even higher quality obstetrics and pediatrics care than ever before."

Around the time I was born, it was rare for people to give birth in hospitals. I was, in fact, delivered by a midwife at my parents' house. As Dr. Kato says, however, it is surely only natural that mothers-to-be, in this age of fewer children, wish to give birth in a hospital of superior quality, and that today's parents expect the best medical care for their children.

My visit to the Center reminded me of the great urgency of enhancing obstetrics and pediatrics services.

Also, there is an increasing number of women who receive almost no checkups during pregnancy, only to rush to the hospital at the last minute to give birth. This is also a problem that needs to be solved.

In any case, a society in which people can feel secure about having and raising children is the foundation for any policies aimed at counteracting the decreasing birthrate.

With this fresh awareness of the issue, I intend to compile a vision for obstetrics and pediatrics services by the end of next month. This will include specific targets for increasing the number of obstetricians and pediatricians in hospitals, along with policies that will enable these targets to be met. I will then turn this vision into actual measures.

To see this through, we will need a source of funds. In previous issues of the e-mail magazine, I stated that I would make gasoline and other taxes, which are revenue sources for roads, "available for various policies including the enhancement of emergency medical services and countermeasures against the declining birthrate." If we are able to reallocate the revenue from these taxes to the revenues used for general purposes, it will become possible to use it for the enhancement of obstetrics and pediatrics services, among others, from FY2009 onward.

Some people expressed doubt that the reallocation is really possible. However, on Friday of last week the Government and the ruling coalition formally decided to abolish, as part of a fundamental reform of the taxation system this year, the system of earmarking revenue sources for roads and to reallocate these tax sources to the revenues used for general purposes from FY2009.

There are a plethora of tasks that the Government must address for the sake of our children, who will inherit the future. The reallocation of revenue sources earmarked for roads to the revenues used for general purposes is essential in order to secure the revenue sources to carry out policies to tackle tasks of this nature. Talks with the opposition parties have finally been set in motion, and I will earnestly continue my negotiations with them.

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General Editor: Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda
Chief Editor: Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Matushige Oono
Publication: Cabinet Public Relations Office
1-6-1 Nagata-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8968, Japan

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