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Countries must deal with aging societies says new WMA president

The importance of universal health coverage in helping the world to cope with aging societies has been highlighted by the new President of the World Medical Association Dr. Yoshitake Yokokura.

In his inaugural address today to the WMA's annual General Assembly in Chicago, Dr. Yokokura, President of the Japan Medical Association, said the world was now rushing into a period of tremendous change - the aging society.

‘Leading the world, Japan is plunging into an explosively ultra-aging society with the postwar baby boomers reaching the age of 75 years in 2025', he said. ‘As society ages, issues within the healthcare field are increasing. I therefore propose realizing a society of healthy longevity, in which people are able to continue to participate actively in life, even in old age'.

Dr. Yokokura, who will serve as WMA President for the next year, said that the rise in Japanese people's healthy longevity to the world's top level was largely the result of the role played by universal health coverage.

‘We are certain that universal health coverage is a key to creating models to guide aging societies, unprecedented in the world, towards a sense of security'.

He said Japan's rapid growth in the postwar period had been possible because of its universal health coverage.

‘I want to spread the concept of Japan's healthcare system and know-how, which have raised the healthy life expectancy of Japanese people to amongst the highest in the world, throughout the world'.

Dr. Yokokura

Dr. Yokokura, who is the third Japanese doctor to become President of the WMA, said that the mission of physicians was to accompany patients on their journey through life, from birth until death, working together with them to make their lives healthier.

Referring to the use of artificial intelligence and information technology in the rapidly changing medical environment, Dr. Yokokura said that now was precisely the time when they should return to the basis of healthcare, when as physicians they each pledged to “consecrate my life to the service of humanity” under the WMA Declaration of Geneva.

‘Physicians must apply these advanced technologies to daily medical practice as effective and safe tools', he said.

Dr. Yokokura, a surgeon and the son of a military physician, spoke about his childhood in a village where his father was the only doctor and accepted any patient who needed treatment. He remembered his mother who would sell her own clothes, kimonos, to buy medicines for impoverished patients who could not pay their medical fees.

‘Observing my parents as I grew up, I learned the spirit of healthcare, “To make every effort without regard for myself to help people before my eyes who are ill,” through my daily life'.

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