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Businesses should take more responsibility for public health, says Wales’ chief medical officer

Wales’ chief medical officer, Sir Frank Atherton, has called on businesses to make more of an effort to preserve public health in his annual report.

The Shaping our Health report centres around how industry can promote products and choices that are detrimental to public health – this includes everything from vaping and gambling to processed food and drinks.

In relation to the resilience of NHS Wales, the report recommends that the Welsh Government perseveres with it’s A Healthier Wales framework, systems should switch to “upstream prevention” and energy should be put into shaping ambitions for the healthcare of tomorrow.

Starting with outdoor eating areas, the expansion of smoke-free spaces is also a policy proposed – as is regulation of e-cigarettes, especially for children and young people.

Future taxes on salt and sugar are put forward if obesity issues continue.

For gambling, NHS Wales should develop a clear referral pathway and the Welsh Government should continue to lobby for greater controls to protect people from “damaging practices” within the industry.

Sir Frank Atherton said: “We need to employ all means to reduce the risk of unhealthy behaviours like smoking, poor diet, drug and alcohol use, gambling and lack of physical activity.”

He continued: “High use of such products is often less about individual ‘choices’ and more as a result of the strategies used by large companies who produce, market, distribute, or sell these products.”

‘Greenwashing’ features in the report too – a term that, in this case, defines when companies overexaggerate how environmentally friendly they are.

The report states that the Welsh Government should consider what actions can be taken to prevent this, including requirements on organisations to provide greater transparency on their products and practices.

Public Health Wales should also work with the Welsh Government to identify intelligence gaps on the current and emerging threats in relation to the environment. A climate and health surveillance system should be developed to improve understanding, generate evidence, and inform adaptation planning.

“There are many positive examples of businesses displaying corporate social responsibility in response to the global threat that is climate change,” explained Sir Frank Atherton.

“But my report also highlights a growing trend of companies deceiving consumers by marketing their products as more environmentally friendly than they are.”

To read the full report, click here.

Image credit: iStock

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