2021 Special Prize for COVID-19 Response
In the city of Matsudo, located just outside Tokyo in Chiba Prefecture, a consortium of universities, municipalities, volunteers, and service providers has been working together since 2016 to promote and evaluate long-term care prevention through a community-building program focused on social participation and collective impact. This “Matsudo Project” focuses on an urban long-term care prevention model where local residents operate activities known as kayoi-no-ba (places providing social activities in a community). These gatherings promote social bonding and also provide data that has been used to assess the impact of long-term care prevention in urban settings.
The COVID-19 pandemic, however, meant that it was no longer possible to hold traditional in-person kayoi-no-ba gatherings due to the risk of infection. At the same time, older people were in danger of social isolation and secondary damage to their health. The Matsudo Project responded quickly and developed the concept for hosting free online kayoi-no-ba classes, which made social exchange possible while avoiding the risk of infection through in-person interaction. With support from the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development, they implemented and studied four cycles of 2–3 week classes. Evaluations were carried out on the effect of long-term care prevention before and after the free classes, and with a follow-up study as well.
The Matsudo Project emphasizes the gathering of evidence to evaluate the success of the project. They estimate savings of 2 million yen per person annually in average benefits if someone can avoid the need for long-term care. The health benefits of the online kayoi-no-ba are currently being analyzed, but their initial survey found that participants enjoyed the classes and that participating in the free trial has encouraged them to be more comfortable using technology in their everyday lives.
Based on their findings, the project is also producing a manual to help other regions implement the program model, covering human resource training and new long-term care preventive measures using ICT that can be applied even after the pandemic. The project is expected to be introduced in the annual Ministry of Health report for 2021 as an example of creating a new lifestyle through linking people together.
KEYS TO SUCCESS
- The project drew on the collective impact of its work in Matsudo since 2016, which ensured that the stakeholders shared a common agenda and evaluation system, as well as established lines of communication and an existing framework for supporting activities.
- The consortium recognized that older people were vulnerable both to the COVID-19 virus and to the impact of social isolation, and so they quickly adapted their activities to help address this issue.
- To ensure that older people could participate, activities were offered on a free-trial basis and tablets preconfigured with necessary applications, such as Zoom, were made available free-of-charge for participants to borrow.
- A manual was developed based on an evaluation of the project’s initial phase, offering recommendations for other regions seeking to implement similar services during and after the pandemic.
- The project’s emphasis on evaluation and an evidence-based approach ensures that the program will have a positive impact, or can be adjusted if goals are not met.