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Thursday, 27 November 2008

Health inequalities in Wales are widening

Wales' Chief Medical Officer's annual report contains some very positive plus points, not least the fact that people here are living longer and that deaths from heart disease and strokes are continuing to fall.

A main reason for this is undoubtedly the investment in general practice, starting to bear fruit. With GPs focusing on cardio-vascular prevention as part of their QOF targets, that is then being passed onto the patients, and they hopefully have a better understanding of how to manage conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes. So we can see the clear link here between investment in primary care and positive health outcomes.

On the other hand, it is rather disappointing to see in this same report, how the gap is widening in the rate of deaths from cancer, between the rich and the poor. Which begs the question are we focusing enough on those in deprived areas? And the answer seems to be a resounding “no”. There has been a lot of rhetoric and SOME investment, but to drive down these inequalities, it isn’t happening quickly enough. Without greater strategic enhancement in primary care services and Public Health to tackle people’s lifestyle choices, the situation will remain the same. And these strategies need to start at school, so children understand as they grow up, what a healthy lifestyle is.

I can’t stress enough the importance of Public Health to improving the nation’s health and therefore, we mustn’t lose sight of that in the restructuring of the Welsh NHS, currently taking place. It is of the upmost importance to ALL of us, but particularly the less well-off, that the right doctor workforce is put in place, for generations to come.

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