September 27, 2013


Maternal and Child Health Handbook Spreading Around the World

Keywords: Government NGO / Citizen Population Decline Well-Being 

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Japan's Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Handbook, or Boshi Techo in Japanese, has been receiving keen attention internationally as a tool for protecting mothers' and children's health, especially in developing countries that are striving to improve pregnant women's health and to reduce infant mortality. The MCH Handbook was created in Japan in the 1940s, shortly after World War II, and has made a significant contribution to improving maternal and child health in the country. In October 2012, the 8th International Conference on MCH Handbook was held in Kenya.

In Japan, expecting mothers receive the MCH Handbook after registering with their municipal offices. The handbook is used to keep all sorts of health records, from the mother's pregnancy, delivery, and childcare at home to the child's vaccinations and growth check-ups, becoming over time a valuable health and childcare history. The Japanese have enjoyed this benefit for a long time as an established part of their healthcare system, but few countries have such an official program that facilitates the mother's keeping records of all events from her pregnancy through the child's toddler years in one booklet.

Inspired by this Japanese system, many countries have been developing similar handbooks that are designed to fit in their own cultures and socioeconomic situations. Some countries are conducting large projects for the handbooks in collaboration with the Japan International Cooperation Agency, United Nations Children's Fund, and non-governmental organizations, while in other countries citizens are taking their own initiative at local hospitals and communities.

HANDS, a Japanese nonprofit organization dedicated to improving human health in developing countries, has been actively involved in international cooperation using the MCH Handbook. It owns a collection of MCH Handbooks from all over the world, which it makes available to the general public to check out for free. Also, the ninth International Conference on MCH Handbook is planned to be held in the Republic of Cameroon next October.