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Progress made protecting the public's health

A new law aimed at improving the health of the population in Wales has been hailed a success by doctors leaders.

BMA Cymru Wales said the successful passage of the Public Health (Wales) Bill through the National Assembly for Wales made Wales a ‘world leader’.

The wide-ranging law includes smoking bans for playgrounds, schools, and hospital grounds, and will also see tattooists, acupuncturists and body piercers regulated.

New rules will also be introduced governing the provision of public toilets, while intimate piercings for under 18s are outlawed.

After a large degree of lobbying from BMA Cymru Wales, statutory HIAs (health impact assessments) will also be introduced.

This means that certain decisions made by public bodies will now be judged on their impact on public health.

BMA Welsh council chair Phil Banfield said: ‘This legislation positions Wales as a world leader in the application of public health policy.

‘HIAs will enable positive health benefits to be maximised in the development of key policies, plans and programmes, as well as ensuring negative health impacts are minimised.

‘We are delighted that the Welsh Government and assembly members reflected on the strong case BMA Cymru Wales made for placing HIAs on a statutory footing.’

 

Cost of obesity

During scrutiny of the bill, BMA Cymru Wales provided significant evidence to the assembly’s health, social care and sport committee to use the legislation to tackle obesity rates in Wales.

With 57 per cent of adults classed as overweight or obese, the financial cost of treating conditions related to obesity is £650m per year.

The new law means health ministers have to publish a national strategy on reducing and preventing obesity.

Dr Banfield added: ‘The Public Health (Wales) Bill has been immeasurably strengthened by the inclusion of provisions relating to tackling the obesity crisis. Obesity has a significant and growing impact on individuals and communities in all parts of Wales.

‘This legislation highlights the importance of taking a proactive and joined-up approach to tackling the causes of obesity and measures that can be taken to reduce them.

'We will support the Welsh Government and public bodies to ensure that the implementation of the Public Health (Wales) Bill delivers real and meaningful change for the people of Wales. It is important that this legislation is fully utilised to improve people’s health outcomes and to ensure that all public bodies are proactive in their approach to tackling the causes of health inequality.’

Welsh social services and public health minister Rebecca Evans thanked organisations, such as the BMA, for their input into the bill.

She said: ‘The Public Health (Wales) Bill is a radical piece of legislation which will improve and protect the health and well-being of the nation.

‘Once law, the bill will make a real difference to people in Wales. Children will be protected from the harms of secondhand smoke and the dangers of intimate piercing; better planning of public toilet provision should mean older people, people with disabilities, and people caring for young children won’t be put off leaving the house; while anybody undergoing a special procedure will be able to have confidence that the person carrying it out has safe working practices.’