In this episode, Christine Parthemore, the CEO of the Council on Strategic Risks, interviews Dr. Tomoya Saito, director of the Department of Health Crisis Management at Japan’s National Institute of Public Health. Dr. Saito is taking part in his country’s COVID-19 response, applying his deep experience in emergency preparedness and response, health surveillance, and biosecurity. Christine and Dr. Saito discussed several specific lessons that show the potential for strong pandemic prevention and response, including:
- Japan detected the infection patterns at a very early stage, showing the importance of disease tracking and early warning.
- Like all countries, Japan is navigating improvements in data collection and sharing. This also relates to the strength of a nation’s modeling and disease-trend prediction capabilities.
- Japan established effective contact tracing and cluster busting strategies early, and its “Avoid 3Cs” campaign helped with public communications and cooperation in preventing disease spread.
- The roles of health centers in communities around Japan in contact tracing and helping the public, and its accessible medical care for everyone, undoubtedly contribute to progress in containing the spread of COVID-19.
Dr. Saito shares specific insights and examples from the work he and his colleagues continue to do in addressing the COVID-19 crisis in Japan. These can and should inform how the United States improves its responses to this current pandemic, and establishes the systems needed to halt future outbreaks before they sicken and kill millions.