Interview with Hana Hayashi, Asia Pacific Director, McCann Public Health & Adjunct Lecturer at Tokyo Medical and Dental University
1. How does it feel to be one of the few Japanese female managers in a corporate leadership position?
Japan is my where I was born, grew up and call home, and there are so many wonderful aspects of the culture. However, women’s leadership is an area that is lacking, which I want to change. In fact, Japan’s percentage of female politicians is the lowest in all the G20 countries, while the proportion of women in leading management roles is the worst among the G7. I believe that this is due to strong social norms and a lack of leadership education. By being in a leadership role myself, I hope that I can contribute to changing this trend in Japan for the better.
2. Your mission, as you stated previously to Asia Society, is to “bridge the worlds of research and practice in order to create a healthier society.” What prompted your activism in public health?
Yes, my goal is to create a healthier society, so that people can better maximize their lives. I have built bridges between different disciplines –such as research and practice, and business and public health –in addition to serving as an advocate for public health. I believe that life is a miracle. What I mean by this is that everyone has a reason to be born, thus I want each person to fully enjoy their lives. Public health is one of the core disciplines to help make this possible. There is a lot of valuable scientific evidence, which has accumulated over time through the dedication of many researchers and scientists. Unfortunately, however, only some of it is well utilized, especially in health promotion. Making the most of my skills and experiences, I would like to take advantage of this existing learning and also further contribute to this field.
3. Based on your work research in the field of behavioral change communication programs, what are some of the most intriguing findings and trends you can share?
There are three important trends I would like to point out. First, with the rise of super-aging societies, now just living longer is not enough. In other words, we have to find ways to maximize lives not only physically, but also mentally and spiritually. In Japan, for example, most elderly cannot live independently during the last years of their lives (about 9 years on average for men and 13 years for women). Reducing this gap between healthy life expectancies and life expectancy, we also need to find out how we can care for people, in addition to supporting the caregivers themselves. The second point is, again, that we should utilize more evidence in behavior science, so that it can help bring about people’s behavior change in various areas–such as smoking cessation, healthy diet and regular exercise, etc. There are ways to raise rates of success. Last, but not least, obviously it is important to keep generating evidence. As a practitioner-scholar, I hope that many sectors –not only the public sector, but also the private sector–can access science more easily, and together we can work on creating a healthier society.
4. For other nature lovers, like yourself, where do you recommend they visit in Japan?
I recommend visiting Sawara, Katori City, located in Chiba Prefecture, which is 30 minutes by car from Narita airport. The central part of the small town presents a rich Japanese heritage, ranging from a twice-annual UNESCO registered festival to old-style buildings and streets. My hometown was flourished duringtheEdoera (starting around 1600), and it preserves the essence of that time. Nearby, there is abundant nature, consisting of forests, fields and farms, so that you can take part in many kinds of outdoor activities, like boating, farming and camping.
5. You’ve got a passion for cooking and healthy living. Japanese food is popular all around the world. What’s your #1 recommendation for a delicious healthy Japanese meal?
Japan has a plethora of healthy and authentic ingredients, such as dashi, koji and mirin, which serve as the foundation of meals. I like the foods that fully utilize these ingredients as a base, since the tastes are each so unique. My current top recommendation for an ingredient to incorporate into your diet is mirin-kasu. Authentic mirin-kasu is extracted during the process of making mirin (rice wine). In Japan, it has been used as a sweetener since the Edo era more than 400 years ago. Since I want to eat healthy snacks every day, my mother(who is a cooking teacher) and I successfully designed new and original recipes for sweets and snacks, such as granola, cookies and energy bars, using mirin-kasu from my friend’s sake brewery, which was founded in 1842. One of my other public health projects is called “Down to Earth”, and its purpose is to be a direct solution for health by producing healthier and more delicious snack options for children and parents all over the world, utilizing authentic Japanese ingredients and locally grown vegetables and fruits. At the same time, I hope that it will support and provide opportunities for local farmers and business owners who produce these food staples. We have completed and tested our food samples, and hope to share them with many people soon!