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WHO Goodwill Ambassador's Newsletter For The Elimination Of Leprosy

NEWS: 100 Years and Counting

The remarkable Dr. Shigeaki Hinohara keeps on keeping on


Indulge us as we mark the 100th birthday of Dr. Shigeaki Hinohara, the president of the Sasakawa Memorial Health Foundation (SMHF)*. Well-known in Japan as a poster boy for "Living Long, Living Well" (the title of one of his best-selling books), Dr. Hinohara was instrumental in the foundation's establishment in 1974.

He had been approached to see if his Life Planning Center, formed in 1973 to promote lifelong health, could play a part in a new initiative to tackle leprosy being mulled by The Nippon Foundation in conjunction with leading Japanese chemotherapist, Professor Morizo Ishidate. Since the Life Planning Center already had its own agenda, Dr. Hinohara suggested forming a separate organization, pledging his full cooperation. The idea received the backing of The Nippon Foundation and thus was SMHF born.

Recalls Dr. Hinohara: "Professor Ishidate's idea was to suppress the development of leprosy. By cutting off the source of infection, he wanted to ensure that the next generation didn't get the disease. In other words, his approach to curing leprosy was to prevent the disease occurring. At the time, this was a very new idea."

The Life Planning Center was also based on the idea of prevention. "For more people to enjoy good health, not only doctors and health professionals but also the general public need to learn the science of health and conduct themselves on the basis of that knowledge," says Dr. Hinohara. "Such an attitude, we felt, could contribute to preventing disease or its reoccurrence. So I was happy to support the work of the new foundation."

Preventing the occurrence of leprosy remains one of the outstanding challenges some 37 years after SMHF was founded. But thanks to treatment with multidrug therapy and the work of many partners, the global leprosy situation has vastly improved in the intervening decades.

As for Dr. Hinohara, who celebrated his 100th birthday on October 4, he continues to lead a full and active life. His 10-year diary is filled with appointments for the next nine years, and keeping busy is one of the secrets to his longevity. Among the others? Eating 90 grams of steak twice a week and taking care over his appearance. As the dapper Dr. Hinohara told a newspaper reporter recently, "If you want to stay young, the ace up your sleeve is to be a snappy dresser."

Happy birthday, Dr. Hinohara.