Yesterday I experienced that Great Democratizer, the full body health checkup, called ningen dock or “human dock” in Japanese. (The idea is that you’re docking yourself like a ship in drydock to be refitted.) While reasons for Japan’s famous longevity include a healthier diet high in fish, a safe society and human-to-human social networks that provide ikigai (literally “reason for living”) late in life, another big part is a well-organized health care system built around this formal ningen dock system. On the day of your check-up, you arrive at the dedicated hospital facility, which does nothing but these standardized procedures, and all morning you’re poked and prodded and measured in every way possible, with blood drawn, an EKG recorded, ultrasonic images of internal organs checked, and so on. Since stomach cancer is such a big problem in Japan, there are many well-developed options for checking for stomach problems, too. Part of the effectiveness of the ningen dock system is the unspoken implication that if you don’t get your check-up done regularly, you don’t love your family, which can be a strong motivator for those who might not bother. The standardized check-ups also provide a huge body of regularly collected data which allows the medical community to identify trends that can improve health.
How is the health care system in your country? I’ve always gotten the idea that Japan took its cues from the UK, and wouldn’t be surprised to see a similar system there.
Japan’s medical system is well organized and quite smart.