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Village offers free dental care for children

Date Posted: 1998-03-14

The mayor of Miyako Island's Ueno Village hopes to draw more young couples to town and keep young residents by offering free dental care to children twelve and under. The village is struggling with a common problem faced by many communities in rural islands and areas. More and more young people are leaving to find education, employment and other opportunities in Naha and mainland Japan. Ueno Village's population drops by almost 150 each year and there are currently only 3,076 residents left, including 450 children under the age of 13.

The Okinawa Prefecture currently gives the village funding for the dental needs of infants and some areas offer free dental treatment to children under three. The mayor will introduce his proposal at the annual meeting of assembly members later this month. If approved, this will be the first time a program of this type has been offered to elementary school children, those who use dental facilities most often. The mayor hopes his idea will be implemented by other Miyako Island villages, Okinawa cities and eventually, mainland Japan.

This year's agenda will focus on ways to keep the young residents in Ueno Village and while the available budget is low, the mayor feels it is important to keep the village together.

Another idea that will be proposed is village-owned apartments with low rental costs, an incentive to preserve and increase the current population. The apartments will be available to current residents as well as individuals moving to Ueno Village.

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