Decreasing rates of death from cardiovascular disease and a decline in smoking rates amongst children and adults, have contributed to improvements in the health and life expectancy of people in Wales.
The Chief Medical Officer for Wales launches his final annual report with good news on increasing life expectancy.
"Life expectancy has been increasing for the past two decades. Male life expectancy has increased to 77.6 years, narrowing the gap with female life expectancy (81.8 years), which is a significant improvement.
"Smoking rates amongst both men and women have declined significantly since the seventies. Historically, men were more likely to smoke than women, but male smoking rates have been in decline for a longer time period. However for both sexes, smoking related health risks remain a problem, and lung cancer mortality rates in women have risen over the past decade.
"Seventy per cent of smokers in Wales want to give up, and these figures show that our vision of a smoke-free society for Wales is the right one.
"Other lifestyle factors continue to pose a threat to health in the long term: low levels of physical activity, drinking more than the recommended units per week, and unhealthy eating habits. Circulatory disease and cancer remain the biggest causes of death in Wales."
The report states that although overall health in Wales is improving, life expectancy has risen at a slower rate in the most deprived communities.
Dr Jewell said:
"The gap is widest in alcohol-related deaths; rates are three and a half times as high in the most deprived areas for males, and more than twice as high for females. Similarly for deaths from respiratory disease and from smoking, rates in the most deprived populations are more than twice those in the least deprived.
"We see this in Cardiff, where life expectancy for men in Grangetown is 71.5 years, and only a few train stops along in Dinas Powys, men can expect to live to 81.8 years.
"Addressing health inequalities involves all aspects of government policy, and investing in our children, particularly the most disadvantaged. The Flying Start programme is focused on giving children in deprived areas a healthy start in life, increasing support for parenting and promoting child language and development.
"We are seeing improvements. Smoking rates amongst young people are reducing, and teenage pregnancy rates continue to decline, to the lowest rates for eighteen years. This is partly due to good collaboration by the NHS, education and local authorities in providing sexual health provision. Early teenage pregnancy is associated with poor outcomes for both mother and baby, so this is encouraging news.
"Health services can make a difference and tackling health inequalities means tackling the inverse care law, whereby good medical services are not always accessible to those who need them most.
"The NHS in Wales is an integrated healthcare system, focusing on preventative treatment and care. In the long term, these changes should contribute to overturning the inverse care law.
"Improving public health involves a sustained commitment to make long-term change; and as I reflect on my last report as CMO I am proud of what we have achieved. There is more work to be done to tackle health inequalities and make it easier for people to make healthy choices, and I know that this will continue across all Welsh Government departments."
Health Minister Lesley Griffiths said:
"I welcome this report from the Chief Medical Officer, who has achieved much during his six years in the role.
"As well as tackling health problems, the NHS has a role to play in preventing them. This means working with schools to promote healthy eating and providing vitamins as part of Healthy Start. We will be introducing health checks for the over 50s, to support people in taking more responsibility for their own health. .
"GPs are the gateway to the NHS, and improving access to them will help to tackle health inequalities, preventing and treating disease and promoting healthy choices. We have already increased the number of surgeries opening during the core hours of 8.00 am to 6.30 pm, and from next year we will work to make further improvements.
"Through Tobacco Control Action Plan for Wales we continue to work to reduce smoking rates, with the ultimate aim of a smoke free Wales, and I want to thank Dr Jewell for his commitment to tackling smoking. I look forward to working with his successor to move towards a smoke-free Wales."