Long-term thinking to reduce health inequalities for current and future generations.

Think about the youngest person you know. What will their life look like in 2050? What about 2100? What will they eat? Where will they live? How will they celebrate their birthday?

Now imagine the invisible link that connects you in the present to that image of the future. How will the decisions you make today impact their future in 2100?  

Thinking long-term is not just one of the five ways of working in the Well-being of Future Generations Act – it is the idea sitting at the very heart of this world-leading legislation. The Act requires us to look at the challenges we face today through a more integrated, intergenerational lens and reminds us that we have a responsibility, as good ancestors, to leave a better world for future generations.   

The lives of too many people in Wales are being cut short because they cannot access the essential building blocks of health – education, housing, social connections – that enable a long, healthy, happy life.  

Health inequalities in Wales, and around the world, are being exacerbated by trends such as climate change, demographic change, and digitalisation. With many of these trends set to get worse, we cannot continue as we are. We need a wholesale shift to preventative approaches which improve health now, and in the future.  

Thinking about the long-term can give us agency to proactively envision and work towards a future we want to be a part of, but it can be difficult to do when priorities are deeply rooted in the present with national health worsening and long waiting lists for treatment.  

Thinking and acting for the long-term can help us navigate an increasingly complex and uncertain world in a way that reduces risk and unlocks opportunities. It can help us build resilience into our organisations and systems and get out of the constant ‘firefighting’ mode. 

We must move on from only treating disease to promoting good health and preventing illness for everyone in Wales. But time and effort, alongside new knowledge and skills, are needed to to undertake this cultural and behavioural shift. 

Together we can shape the future.  

In our new strategy, Cymru Can, we’ve committed to supporting people and organisations to think, plan and act for the longer-term and to help with that, in collaboration with Public Health Wales, we have created Beyond the present: How to apply long-term thinking to reduce health inequalities.  

This resource is meant to help public bodies, Public Services Boards and others, know where to start with long-term thinking and navigate the different futures methods available.  

Our resource includes 12 accessible futures techniques for thinking long-term and considering the impact of the present on our future, and 14 examples of good practice from organisations across Wales which have used them. 

All of these are considered through the lens of health inequalities as a cross-cutting theme that impacts – and is impacted by – almost all of our decisions and actions.  

The futures methods in the resource include techniques to identify relevant trends, explore potential futures and setting a course for the desired future.   

The resource also showcases how the Welsh Centre for International Affairs used the creative narratives method to define a 100-year long-term strategy and how Natural Resources Wales used scenario planning with people from across Wales to co-create a preferred vision for the future of the natural environment.  

In exploring each case study, the resource guides people through the various approaches to long-term thinking that have been used. It offers tips on approach, who to involve, time required, outputs and recommends specific toolkits for each approach. 

Together, we can drive the vision of the Well-being of Future Generations Act and ensure that we are protecting and promoting good health and well-being today, and in the long-term.  

Together, Cymru Can.  


Please get in touch with us to share how you’re using the resource and your own experience thinking long-term.  

If your organisation is interested in futures workshops or would like to discuss long-term thinking, please get in touch with us via contactus@futuregenerations.wales marked for the attention of Petranka Malcheva.