People's lifestyle choices are damaging their health


Owen Evans

LIFESTYLE choices are risking the health prospects for too many people, the Welsh health minister has warned.

Mark Drakeford said residents were risking their lives and they needed to take responsibility for their own health.

His comments came after the publication of the Welsh Health Survey which made clear a figure approaching six out of every 10 adults in Wales were classed as overweight or obese.

The survey also found one in five adults were smokers, half were being treated for an illness and less than a third reported being physically active on five or more days in the past week.

Labour AM Prof Drakeford said: “These findings show once again that Wales faces challenges when it comes to tackling some of our most stubborn lifestyle behaviours, which we know can contribute to health problems.

“We have seen progress, with a two per cent drop in the number of people smoking and a small decline in levels of drinking.

“The reality is that too many people are making lifestyle choices that are damaging their health and endangering their lives and this, in turn, puts massive pressure on our NHS.”

Conservative shadow health minister Darren Millar described the figures as a “public health timebomb”.

He said: “The Welsh NHS is reeling from Labour’s legacy of record-breaking cuts and combined with this developing public health timebomb, the Welsh NHS could face a crippling future.

“Clinicians and other frontline NHS staff work tirelessly to deliver good quality care to patients, but NHS resources are not limitless and patients need to take greater responsibility for their own wellbeing.

“These figures lay bare the chronic ill-health and severe deprivation in parts of Wales, which 15 years of successive Labour governments have failed to address.”

The annual survey, set up in 2003, involves about 15,000 adults and 3,000 children.

It found one in five adults reported having fair or poor general health, 42 per cent of adults reported drinking above the guidelines on at least one day in the past week and just 33 per cent of adults reported eating five or more portions of fruit and vegetables the previous day.

Prof Drakeford added: “This is why we have set out radical proposals in our Public Health White Paper to take action to protect our nation’s health, including introducing a minimum unit price for alcohol, restricting the use of e-cigarettes in public places to address concerns these products normalise smoking, and introducing a tobacco retailers’ register requiring businesses to inform enforcement authorities if they sell tobacco, with stiffer penalties for those which sell to under 18s.

“Our approach is about taking preventative action to reduce the likelihood of people becoming dependent on costly health treatment later in life, when it can often be too late.

“However, to make a difference to Wales’ health, people also have to take responsibility for their own lifestyle choices – government cannot make individuals be healthy.”

See full story in the Leader

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