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Establishment of the Center for Epidemiologic Research in Asia, Shiga University of Medical Science

Director, Center for Epidemiologic Research in Asia,
Shiga University of Medical Science
Professor, Department of Public Health,
Shiga University of Medical Science

Katsuyuki Miura

The Importance of Epidemiologic Research and its Current Status in Japan

Epidemiologic research is essential for understanding the causes of diseases and identifying prevention and treatment strategies. Furthermore, the increased incidence of cardiovascular diseases such as coronary artery disease and stroke and prevalence of cardiovascular disease risk factors such as diabetes, hypertension, and dyslipidemia represent one of the most serious health problems not only in Japan but also around the world, including developing countries. Hence, further promotion of epidemiologic research and training of specialists for lifestyle disease prevention are greatly needed.

In epidemiology, observation of large groups of subjects over a long period of time is required. In Europe and the United States, large capital investments have been made available to maintain the foundation for research. However, such a foundation for epidemiologic research in Japan and Asia lags far behind. As the most advanced Asian nation in this field, experience and technology for epidemiologic research cultivated in Japan are needed in Asia. Findings from Japan, the world's fastest aging society, are relevant around the world.

Epidemiologic Research on Lifestyle Diseases Conducted by Shiga University

To date, Shiga University has played a central role in epidemiologic research on lifestyle diseases in Japan. It has served as the administrative headquarters for various national projects, such as NIPPON DATA, a long-term follow-up study of 20,000 subjects from the national health and nutrition survey, and EPOCH-JAPAN, a collaborative cohort study with 200,000 participants. It also has played an important role as the center for international collaborations in epidemiologic research, connecting Europe, the United States, and Asia through INTERMAP, an international collaborative study on nutrition and blood pressure, ERA-JUMP, and the Asia Pacific Cohort Research Collaboration (APCSC).

In addition, the Shiga Epidemiological Study of Subclinical Atherosclerosis (SESSA) and the Takashima Study have involved local residents. The construction of a new onset stroke database in all Japanese prefectures has just begun at the Shiga Brain Stroke Data Center. These are all valuable large-scale Japanese studies that manage biological samples and electronic data over the long term.

The Mission of the Center for Epidemiologic Research in Asia, Shiga University of Medical Science

Construction of a general research center to serve as Japan’s first epidemiologic research base was included in the 2014 facility maintenance budget of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan. The purpose of the Center for Epidemiologic Research in Asia, Shiga University of Medical Science, is to “promote leading-edge epidemiologic research on various diseases, focusing on cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, and international collaborative epidemiologic research, in order to improve education and research at Shiga University of Medical Science and the state of medical science and public health in Japan and around the world.” (Article 2, Regulation of Center for Epidemiologic Research in Asia, Shiga University of Medical Science, established in April 1, 2013)

Specifically, the Center promotes the following two research areas and one education area.

[A] Research

  1. International collaborative epidemiologic research centered in Asia
  2. Leading-edge local epidemiologic research

[B] Education

  1. Graduate and continuing education to train specialists on epidemiologic research in lifestyle diseases

In particular, the following goals have been set:

  • Conduct epidemiological research related to cardiovascular disease and diabetes in Asia, and apply the findings to the prevention of lifestyle diseases in various countries in Asia through international collaborative research based at Shiga University of Medical Science.
  • Establish the Graduate School of Shiga University of Medical Science as a base for exchange students from various Asian countries to receive training in the epidemiology of lifestyle diseases, who can then actively serve as leaders in their home countries.
  • Use leading-edge science and technologies, such as analysis and image technologies, to conduct research in Japan, the world's fastest aging society, which is also relevant for the rest of the world.
  • In coordination with industry, promote the development of new technology for preventing cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.
  • Provide evidence from epidemiological research that can be adopted by various organizations as Japan’s health policy for use to prevent lifestyle diseases in Japan.
  • Through graduate and continuation education based on leading-edge epidemiologic research, train specialists in lifestyle diseases in healthcare, local and national government, and related industries who can serve as leaders in each field.
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