The key health challenge for a generation is to solve the country's public health crisis, the Royal College of Nursing has urged.
The analysis was made by RCN Chief Executive and General Secretary, Dr Peter Carter, as he welcomed the government's white paper on public health - Healthy Lives, Healthy People.
He said: "We welcome this public health white paper as preventative care is vital in today's NHS and the key health challenge for a generation. Preventing illness before it happens is central to the future wellbeing of the nation and reducing the financial burden on the NHS.
"Nursing staff play a fundamental role in preventing unhealthy lifestyles developing; for example, they provide sex education in schools, advice on healthy eating, manage smoking cessation clinics, and support the health of the working population.
"We have already welcomed the government's commitment to put clinicians at the heart of decision-making in the NHS and we look forward to ensuring that nursing staff are pivotal in delivering the government's Healthy Lives, Healthy People vision.
"We welcome the commitment to ring-fence public health spending but we recognise that all public sector bodies are going through times of financial challenge. To ensure our public health service is fit for the future we must make sure that under a new system the money does not get swallowed up by other concerns - and we need more detail on this."