“What can we, high school students, do for the ageing world?”
Kobe/Hyogo High School Forum: “Youth Meeting the World”

WHO Kobe Centre

On 11 February 11 2017, the WHO Kobe Centre and the G7 Kobe Health Ministers' Meeting Promotion Council, along with the Hyogo Prefectural Board of Education and Osaka University, organized a large meeting of Kobe and Hyogo Prefecture High School students exploring global health: “Kobe/Hyogo Youth Meeting the World” at the Kobe International Exhibition Hall. This event follows up to the 2016 G7 Health Ministers’ meeting held in Kobe. About 600 participated, mainly from high schools in Hyogo prefecture.

WHO Kobe Centre

In the keynote speeches, Professor Junko Otani of Graduate School of Human Sciences, Osaka University talked about her experiences working in several international agencies in many different parts of the world, and her field work in disaster-struck areas such as the Great Hanshin Awaji Earthquake, the Great East Japan Earthquake to the Great Sichuan earthquake in 2008. As a message to the students, she emphasized the importance of studying foreign languages. “Not only English but some of the Asian languages will be a great asset; don't be introvert, be an extrovert.”

And Dr Ryoma Kayano, Technical Officer of the WHO Kobe Centre took the podium and explained about WHO and its history of fighting against communicable diseases and public health concerns in the 21st century, such as emerging communicable diseases, global population ageing and the double burden of communicable and non-communicable diseases. He also mentioned that “Challenge your limits and widen your horizon when you are young. A bright future is yours.”

Mr Shinjiro Nozaki, External Relations Officer of the WHO Kobe Centre then moderated a Panel Discussion with four high school students, under the theme of “Japan’s future, the ageing society”. Ms Miori Oshima of Hyogo Prefectural Amagasaki-Inazono High School mentioned “The definition of old people in Japan, 65 years old, should be changed and raised now reflecting healthy and active old age”. Mr Keisuke Kanda of Hyogo Prefectural Sumoto High School shared his idea of “Creating a new compact city in an open area in Awaji island with a public transportation network and facilities needed in everyday life, in order to produce more chances of communication and jobs for the older population.”

WHO Kobe Centre

Ms Mai Tamura of Hyogo Prefectural Tatsuno Senior High School said “Japan should increase the chances of social connections and social participation among older persons and to be a role model to the world showing healthy and active ageing”. Ms Hana Kobayashi of Kobe Municipal Fukiai High School said “Old people contribute to society significantly economically and socially. Their experiences are important to the economy, they can take care of grandchildren whose parents are working, they play an important role in inheritance of tradition and safety and security in the community.”

WHO Kobe Centre

In the afternoon, lively discussions and presentations took place at the 30 booth exhibitions; at podiums where 13 short lectures on activities by globally active organizations, entities, and universities were delivered; and at 84 poster sessions where students presented their work.

To wrap up the day’s extensive programme, Dr Hisanobu Kakizawa, Associate Professor at Center for Education in Liberal Arts and Sciences of Osaka University, mentioned “There are multiple viable solutions for given questions, and you cannot find one correct answer in the textbook. Trial and error learning method is important.” He encouraged the students to pursue excellence in their future work and careers, and noting they will be the ones to discover new solutions.

WHO Kobe Centre

Finally, Mr Alex Ross, Director of WHO Kobe Centre, concluded the event saying “We live in a world full of uncertainty, with a lot of new global challenges, new global health issues and global ageing. On the other hand, the world has never been as interconnected as today. You are the future of Japan – please be active globally and locally in order to contribute to the world, and to be a good global citizen.”

WHO Kobe Centre