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Lessons from Wales — how to embed sustainability and prevention in health care

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Legislation and policy support step change for public services in tackling societal challenges in a sustainable way

Across the globe, United Nations member states are considering the 17 new Sustainable Development Goals, targets and indicators that collectively focus on ending poverty and hunger, improving health and education, making cities more sustainable, and combating climate change.1 Wales is one of the first nations in the world to establish a legislative link to the international Sustainable Development Goals, through the creation of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015. The ambitious Welsh legislation provides an opportunity for a step change in the way public services tackle some of the main health and other societal challenges that will serve and sustain future generations.

Overall, the health of the Welsh population is improving steadily, but the conditions for good health, on equal terms for the entire population, remain a concern. The reasons for these differences are diverse and have roots deep in the history of the communities concerned. They are linked to poverty, social conditions, geographic location and lifestyles, and these also influence each other.

Legislation is arguably one of the most powerful tools available to governments to direct long-term policy goals. It can be an effective lever for influencing changes in society and provide a…