homeThursday 21st March 2019

CMO's warning on gambling

Katie Coyne08/02/2018 - 15:05

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Gambling is a public health issue
Gambling is a public health issue

Gambling and environmental issues affecting the wider determinants of health and wellbeing are highlighted in the latest chief medical officer report for Wales.

Dr Frank Atherton says in his second annual report that gambling is an ‘emerging’ public health threat for Wales that has great potential to cause harm and called for greater regulatory control in both Wales and the UK’.

He says that there are big gaps in ‘our understanding’ around the issue and calls for better research and monitoring of the impact of gambling on health.
The report includes environmental health inequalities, air pollution, and food safety.

The outlook for the health of Wales is positive with overall life expectancy having rised to 78.4 for men and 82.3 for women, with 72 per cent of over 16s reporting being in ‘good’ or ‘very good’ health.

Director of CIEH Wales Kate Thompson welcomed the report and made a comparison between the impact of gambling on public health and that of alcohol and smoking.

She said: ‘We welcome this report because we see the issue of gambling as similar to alcohol and smoking in being one of the wider determinants, impacting on health and wellbeing. The harmful effects of gambling disproportionately affect the poorer in society and vulnerable groups.

‘Debt obviously has an impact on the quality of housing and food you can access, which in turn affects health. EHOs are well placed to deal with this issue. Some of our members are already be involved in licensing for some of these establishments.’

Ms Thompson also welcomed the report’s inclusion of the issues of air pollution and food safety: ‘It’s a progressive report, in that he’s also recognised them as wider determinants of health and well-being, recognising the role that environmental health has and its part in improving health.’

Mr Atherton appears to have focuses on gambling, due to his experiences abroad. He says in the report’s introduction: ‘I returned to the UK last year after four years of working in the Canadian public health system and was immediately struck by the huge expansion of advertising for gambling products, which has quietly occurred during my absence.

‘My international experience has convinced me that, while it can be a source of national revenue and harmless fun for some people, gambling has great potential to cause harm to individuals, families, and society.’

The report quotes English research showing that there are more gambling venues in deprived communities. Public Health Wales has been asked to map out all gambling venues across Wales.

It also points to research showing that gambling problems and harm impacts the poorest in society the most. Lower income families spend a higher proportion of their income on gambling and increases in unemployment have been linked to increased lottery sales. Other at risk groups includes students, veterans, and people with anxiety or mood-related problems.

The report concludes that there is a need to expand services for people with gambling problems. It also suggests that if the stigma associated with the harm created from gambling could be reduced, more people and families might come forward for help.

A need for further work on the prevention of gambling related harm is identified.

While air quality has continued to improve in Wales, local blackspots threaten non-compliance with air quality targets. The refers to new policy guidance to local authorities and NHS staff, from the Welsh Government, to jointly support air quality improvements.

The FSA’s programme to modernise food regulation and procedures – Regulating our Future - is highlighted and the idea to introduce a mandatory ‘permit to trade’ to make sure food businesses met standards before they started trading.

Other key areas in the report include: communicable diseases, Hepatitis C, Immunisation, HIV, seasonal influenza and international infectious diseases.


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