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January symposium focuses on halting the rise in obesity and diabetes.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Ministry of Health considers our current rate of diabetes and obesity a public health crisis. Steps to a Well Bermuda (2014) showed that one in three of us is obese. It also showed that one in three of us (35% of adults in Bermuda) have chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease and kidney disease.  Further, 8.5% of adults aged 18 years and older had diabetes, and, as we know, obesity and type 2 diabetes are linked.

As we celebrate World Diabetes Day on 14 November, the Ministry is working toward a national strategy to halt the rise in obesity and diabetes. A symposium will be held on 15 and 16 January 2018, with separate sessions for health care providers and the general public. The public is invited to save the date: 16 January, 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm.

Diabetes is a disabling condition that can have fatal consequences. Associated problems include the early onset of blindness, kidney failure, damage to circulation and nerves in the legs that can lead to amputation, circulatory problems, heart disease and stroke. Bermuda has one of the highest amputation rates per capita in the world, as shown in the Health in Review report, whose updated edition will be published shortly.

It is commonly accepted that there are many additional undiagnosed cases of diabetes. In fact, in a recent Ministry of Health initiative called ‘Taking it to the Streets’, our community health nurses surveyed 361 people and sent 126, or about one-third, for further medical assessment. This requirement for further assessment was a surprise to many of those who dropped by the five free events. Further testing was due to high blood pressure and high blood sugar readings.

In 2015, diabetes was the direct cause of 1.6 million deaths globally. The number of people with type 2 diabetes is increasing in every country…Bermuda is no different. The link between obesity and type 2 diabetes is well established. When you consider that one in three of us is obese, reducing the incidence of obesity is a national priority.

Obesity, and the lifestyle choices that cause it, lead to the early onset of preventable diseases. Diabetes is just one.  There is now evidence that connects obesity to 13 different kinds of cancer.

These non-communicable diseases bear a terrible burden on those afflicted, on their families, and they are expensive to treat.

Estimates by the Bermuda Health Council indicate that, based in health insurance claims alone, obesity and diabetes will add over $26 million to our Island’s health costs over the next ten years. This is just the direct cost of medical care and does not include indirect costs, like the impact on other conditions, out of pocket payments, subsidies, wages and work hours lost.  Those indirect costs are part of the larger health economic impact.

Bermuda can’t afford this.

Our future prosperity depends on reducing this trend because sick people can’t work or study, and become an economic burden rather than productive members of society.

The Minister of Health, the Hon. Kim N. Wilson, said, “The Throne Speech 2017 highlighted my Ministry’s commitment to health and wellness. In partnership with broader community organizations who espouse wellness, there is considerable effort and energy behind accomplishing the reversal of the current trends in diabetes and obesity. I extend my sincere thanks to all our Well Bermuda partners who are working with us towards this goal; in this case the Bermuda Diabetes Association and the Bermuda Dieticians Association in particular. The Ministry is determined to reduce our healthcare costs, and our waistlines, for the better health of the community”.