Prevention Better Value Than Cure – Public Health Wales Report



A new Public Health Wales report launched today (14 July) highlights 10 key areas for action that Wales should prioritise to enable significant improvements in our health and wellbeing, a reduction in inequalities, and a maximum return on investment for our economy.

The report – ‘Making a Difference: Investing in Sustainable Health and Well-being for the People of Wales’ – makes the case that investing in the prevention of poor health would result in healthy outcomes for our population, and far-reaching benefits across all aspects of our society and our lives.

These benefits include improving educational attainment for our young people, increasing employability, and reducing the risk of criminal activity and ill-health in later life. Such an approach would also result in real cost savings, and deliver short and long-term benefits to our society, communities and the economy.

The report outlines how current trends, including the rising human and financial costs of illness and inequality, threaten economic sustainability and the health and wellbeing of people in Wales. It provides policy-makers with 10 clear priority areas for action, and outlines solutions to these challenges supported by examples of what works.

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
  • Every £1 spent on motivational interviewing in primary care for people with alcohol dependence would return £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
  • Increasing cycling and walking in urban areas could save £0.9 billion for the NHS in Wales over 20 years

The report aims to stimulate public debate about investment priorities, and the social and economic benefits that can result from investing in prevention rather than treating poor health. It also aims to influence policy-makers in focusing on what works to stimulate health, wealth and growth across our society.

The report was received today (14 July) by Minister for Social Services and Public Health, Rebecca Evans during a visit to Stadco, in Llanfyllin, Powys – a well-established motor industry component manufacturer. The company is a holder of the Gold Corporate Health Standard award, which recognises their excellent work to promote the health and well-being of employees.

Minister for Social Services and Public Health, Rebecca Evans, 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 Sir Mansel Aylward CB, Chair of Public Health Wales, said:

“It has long been known that prevention is better than cure and this seminal report gives us a clear picture of what this means in real terms for the health and well-being of the people of Wales. The report demonstrates that by aligning our focus today on those priority areas that prevent poor health, we can create a happier and healthier Wales for the future.”

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.”

Chrissie Pickin, Executive Director for Health and Wellbeing at Public Health Wales, said:

“This report is a significant step forward in our understanding of how investing differently will improve health and save money.  It provides a roadmap for agencies across Wales, and tells us what we need to prioritise to address the serious wellbeing challenges facing us as a nation.

“The next step is for us all to work together to prevent poor health, and harness our resources to make a bigger collective impact. This includes involving our communities in everything we do, and learning from each other.  Community, collaboration and fairness are ingrained in the social fabric of Wales, so we are in a great position work and act differently to make Wales a happier and healthier place.”

Dr Gillian Richardson, Chair of the Welsh Directors of Public Health, said:

“The Directors of Public Health of Health Boards in Wales would like to endorse this report, which clearly sets out the evidence and actions required to address the key health challenges of our nation. The case for investing in prevention at local and national level has never been clearer or more necessary. Prioritisation of the Public Health approach in Wales would realise benefits for individuals, families, communities and the services that serve them. Health Boards, Public Service Boards and other partnerships will find this report helpful in informing their priorities and plans. We look forward to working with local partners to take forward Public Health focused actions in Wales.”

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 well-being and preventing mental ill health

3. Preventing violence and abuse


  1. Addressing harmful behaviours and protecting health

4. Reducing the prevalence of smoking

5. Reducing the prevalence of alcohol and substance misuse

6. Promoting physical activity

7. Promoting a healthy diet and preventing obesity

8. Protection from disease and early identification


  1. Addressing wider economic, social and environmental determinants of health 

9. Reducing economic and social inequalities and mitigating austerity

10. Ensuring safe and health promoting natural and built environments

A link to the report is available at the end of this press release. More information about the report is available on the Public Health Wales website.

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.