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Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Chief Medical Officer for Wales publishes Annual Report

Wales’ Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Jewell, has today published his annual report which looks at different methods of prevention to ensure the long-term health of the nation, including immunisation, screening and education.

He warns that preventing disease and illness is the key to a healthy future generation. I welcome this report and agree with the recommendations Dr Jewell sets out for improving the health of the nation. It is vital to focus on health promotion and illness prevention as well as illness itself.

Dr Jewell says that overall health in Wales is continuing to improve, but continued action is still needed to address issues like obesity, binge-drinking and smoking. These three issues are important for BMA Cymru members, and for years we have been trying to improve the health of the nation by campaigning for smoking bans, minimum pricing for alcohol and preventing childhood obesity.

The effect of the smoking ban is noted by Dr Jewell in the report. Findings from research commissioned by the Welsh Assembly Government show clear evidence of reduced exposure to environmental tobacco smoke, particularly in pubs, clubs, bars and at work. This means that the legislation has achieved its main objective to reduce environmental tobacco smoke. It is encouraging that the studies found no evidence of any shift of smoking to the home, or of increased exposure to children.

BMA Cymru would like to see further action taken by the Government in the long run, including banning advertising and displaying cigarettes at point of sale; as well as banning cigarette vending machines and scrapping the sale of ten packs.

Childhood obesity is a growing epidemic, and the soaring rates have lead to an increase in childhood type II diabetes and will lead to more future cases of heart disease, osteoarthritis and some cancers. Teaching children at an early age about the advantages of a healthy lifestyle and introducing exercise into a daily routine may prevent them from chronic health conditions later on in life.

A sensible approach to alcohol is always important, but it is particularly pertinent at this time of the year. We want the public to be aware of the risks associated with drinking, and would like to see advertising for alcohol banned as well as minimum price levels for the sale of alcohol.

Health Minister Edwina Hart has welcomed the report and the recommendation that more focus should be placed on preventative measures. I look forward to seeing what action the Welsh Assembly Government takes. Let me know what you make of the report.

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