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Prevention and lifestyles are 'key to healthy future', says CMO

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Preventing disease and illness is the key to a healthy future generation, the chief medical officer for Wales has said.

Dr Tony Jewell issued the statement as he published his third annual report on the state of health in Wales.

The report looks at different methods of prevention to ensure the long-term health of the nation, including immunisation, screening and education.

He said that more emphasis needed to be placed on preventing ill health in the first place.

“With the increase of chronic conditions in an ageing society in Wales, money would be better spent on trying to promote health and prevent people getting chronically ill in the first place rather than being forced to spend increasing amounts on treatment,” he said.

“A broad estimate suggests that around £94 per Welsh citizen is spent per year on prevention activities - that’s only around five per cent of the Welsh health budget - while the cost of smoking alone to the NHS is £127 per citizen a year.

“We need to educate and empower people to make healthy lifestyle choices. It is as much the responsibility of society as a whole to help improve people’s health as it is that of the NHS. We need to make healthy choices the easy choices.”

He said: “Spending more now on health prevention, including health promotion marketing campaigns, will pay both health and financial dividends for future generations.

“We often say that prevention is better than cure and that is why we need to invest sufficiently in preventing the preventable.”

Dr Jewell said overall health in Wales continues to improve but action to address issues like obesity, binge drinking and smoking are needed.

“I remain concerned about the longer term impact of our unhealthy lifestyles in respect of the food we eat, what we drink and the relatively low rates of physical activity in all age groups.”

  • 1 Comment

Readers' comments (1)

  • This is how I have been discussing via email the above matter with my colleagues Offshore Medics:

    “As we all know, prevention is better than cure. This is the cornerstone principle in health promotion and disease prevention. It should guide all health professionals in their clinical approach. The World Health Organisation states in its guideline on cardiovascular prevention:
    “Reducing cigarette smoking, body weight, blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and blood glucose all have a beneficial impact on major biological cardiovascular risk factors. Behaviours such as stopping smoking, taking regular physical activity and eating a healthy diet promote health and have no known harmful effects. They also improve the sense of well-being and are usually less expensive to the health care system than drug treatments, which may also have adverse effects. Further, while effects of drug therapy cease within a short period of discontinuation of treatment, the impact of life style modifications if it is maintained are longer standing.”
    I have been working in various clinical settings (ED, Dialysis, surgical/medical/psychiatric wards, occupational health) and what I found is that health professionals focus mainly on treatment at the expense of prevention. Government agencies should, not only continue to educate the population via informative campaigns, but also target health professionals, especially GPs. So we focus more on this issue because hospitalisation and its cohort of dramas and health crisis cost big money each year. Moreover, the public health is being stretched to a point of collapse due to many reasons: increased ageing population, poor lifestyle, rising obesity and so on. Regulating further the food industry in order to cap the levels of sodium and sugar should be on their agenda.
    I believe that we have a duty and a great position to contribute to the quality of the public health and the improvement of the crew’s well-being and, indirectly, their families’.
    For instance, during a health check programme, I picked up two metabolic syndromes amongst third party personnel. I wrote a referral for their GP; now they have medication for their condition and a new behaviour towards their food intake and physical exercise. Despite the necessary treatment for lowering cholesterol, BP and diabetes, the prevention is still about avoiding a heart attack and its complications. Therefore, the cost in relation to the use of a fibrinolytic agent and hospitalisation can be avoided. Of course, the ultimate prevention would have been to stop the fall towards metabolic syndrome.
    What I am saying here is that we are treating the symptoms instead of trying to resolve the root cause. From the Medic’s perspective, considering the variety of backgrounds in the offshore context, this approach is on the hand of all Medics if they value healthcare as their top priority”.

    So I totally agree with Dr.Tony and shall add that the current campaign on patient safety would certainly benefit from a strategy that primarily focuses on disease prevention and health promotion.
    Abel, RN ( Australia)

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