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