Prevention better value than cure – new report

A new Public Health Wales report, which was launched on July 14 by the Minister for Social Services and Public Health Rebecca Evans AM, makes a compelling case for increased investment in the prevention of poor health and wellbeing.

The ‘Making a Difference: Investing in Sustainable Health and Well-being for the People of Wales’ report argues that removing the causes of poor health offers cost savings, and would lead to both short and long-term benefits for the people and their health, for society and the economy.

Some examples of key savings outlined in the report include:

  • Anti-bullying interventions in schools could return £15 to taxpayers for every £1 spent
  • Improving mental health in the workplace could produce annual savings of £250,607 for an organisation with 1000 employees
  • Increasing cycling and walking in urban areas could save £0.9 billion for the NHS in Wales over 20 years
  • Every £1 spent on motivational interviewing in primary care for people with alcohol dependence returns £5 to the public sector in reduced health, social care and criminal justice costs.
  • £1.35 would be returned for every £1 spent on targeted flu vaccination

The report was launched by the Minister at Gungrog Church in Wales Nursery and Infant School in Welshpool at an event to mark the 100th National Quality Award. Gungrog School is the 100th school to receive the accreditation, which is the highest award a school can obtain through the Welsh Government’s Healthy and Sustainable Pre-School Scheme.

The report aims to stimulate public debate about value-for-money, and the social and economic benefits that can result from investing in prevention rather than treating poor health and wellbeing.

The report outlines how current trends, including the rising human and financial costs of illness and inequalities, threaten sustainability and the health and wellbeing of people in Wales. It provides policy-makers with eight clear priority areas for action, supported by examples of what works.

The Minister for Social Services and Public Health, Rebecca Evans AM, said “Prevention remains a priority in Wales, and we are already adopting many of the approaches advocated in this report. Our collective efforts are beginning to bear fruit in a number of areas, including smoking.

“The recently published Welsh Health Survey shows the percentage of adults smoking in Wales is now at a record low.

“Public services have a key role to play in supporting people to adopt healthy coping strategies and to reduce the risk of poorer health outcomes.

“Our approaches need to be informed by the best available evidence and expert opinion.

“This timely report makes a valuable contribution to our understanding of what works and will be considered by Welsh Government, and other partners, as we continue to prioritise efforts in this area.”

Tracey Cooper, Chief Executive of Public Health Wales, said: “This is a landmark report that comes at an important time for Wales.

“It clearly identifies the 10 most important areas for preventing poor health and improving wellbeing across all aspects of life, and what we need to do to enable this.

“It has also been written to help shape policy in these critical areas and outlines what the return on investing in prevention is for our citizens, society and the economy.

“We are working with the Minister and her officials to consider how the report can be taken forward and implemented in order to help build a healthy and sustainable Wales.”

Professor Mark Bellis, Director of Policy, Research and International Development at Public Health Wales, said: “A healthier Wales means happier individuals who experience a better quality of life, are economically more productive and make fewer demands on public services.

“This report provides the stark facts and figures about why prevention is better than cure for both the people of Wales and the public purse.

“The report is clear, building health promotion and improvement into the environments in which we live, work and socialise, into the laws that govern us and into the services that support us is excellent value-for-money and can dramatically reduce pressures on our NHS.”

The priority issues and areas for action outlined in the report are:

  1. Building resilience across the life course and settings
    1. Ensuring a good start in life for all
    2. Promoting mental health and wellbeing and preventing mental illness
    3. Preventing violence and abuse
  2. Addressing harmful behaviours and protecting health
    1. Reducing prevalence of smoking
    2. Reducing prevalence of alcohol abd substance misuse
    3. Promoting physical activity
    4. Promoting a healthy diet and preventing obesity
    5. Protection from disease and early identification
  3. Addressing wider economic, social and environmental determinants of health
    1. Reducing economic and social inequalities and mitigating austerity
    2. Ensuring safe and health promoting natural and built environments

The scheme is delivered by Public Health Wales on behalf of the Welsh Government.  It is designed to help schools promote, protect and embed the physical, mental and social health and well being of the school community through positive action.

The report consists of three parts:

More information on Public Health Wales is available at

Public Health Wales produces reports and information to influence national and international policy to ensure it is based on the best evidence to protect and improve health.