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Minister Jeanne Atherden Remarks: The Well Bermuda National Health Promotion Strategy

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Good Morning,

On behalf of the Ministry of Health, Seniors and Environment, I would like to thank you all for joining us today at the Well Bermuda Partnership Annual meeting.

I know I don’t have to tell anyone in this room that Bermuda is at a critical stage in addressing the healthcare needs of its population. Reform is vital to move to a more sustainable health system that builds a healthy workforce and ensures that the needs of seniors, children and adults are incorporated into our vision for a healthy Bermuda. This meeting will address how we transform this vision for a “Well Bermuda” into action.

The “Well Bermuda: National Health Promotion Strategy” has been Bermuda’s first concerted effort to create a joined-up approach to the promotion of health on our island, and to create a shared vision for health promoters across all sectors.  Well Bermuda brings together a wide range of organizations – like charities and the private and public sectors – who are already working on various areas of health and wellness, in order to achieve greater coordination and mobilization of resources. The Department of Health cannot do it alone and good public health requires partnership, collaboration and participation.

The strategy is organized around three themes: Healthy people, healthy families, healthy communities. These were developed on the basis of identified health priorities.  It doesn’t only focus on health issues that are currently problematic but also includes areas where public health is already producing positive results. The Strategy highlights all of the areas where good population health must be ensured.

There are 18 goals and a lead agency is assigned to each goal. Assigning a lead agency will ensure that action takes place and is continually monitored.  The lead agencies developed action plans to address each goal. At the Well Bermuda meeting today lead agencies will report on progress on objectives in their respective action plans; successes and challenges during 2015. During the meeting attendees will also work on updating objectives looking forward to 2020. A Well Bermuda 2020 document will be published later in 2016.

Some of the goals for Healthy People include maintenance of a healthy body weight for height, improving heart health, asthma prevention and control, and reducing diabetes and associated complications. For Healthy Families maintaining a healthy childhood development, promoting better quality of life for seniors and a better quality of life for persons with disabilities are among the goals this strategy is designed to achieve. Meanwhile, Healthy Communities seeks to encourage smoke and drug free lifestyles, maintaining low incidence of food and vector borne diseases, increased road safety, and encourage public enjoyment and respect for the environment, among other worthy goals.

This meeting is extremely well timed to take place following the recent launch of my Ministry’s five year plan for healthcare in Bermuda – the Bermuda Health Strategy 2014 – 2019 and Bermuda Health Action Plan.  The vision of the Bermuda Health Strategy is simple: Healthy People in Healthy Communities. Its aim is to ensure Bermuda has quality healthcare that is accessible, affordable and sustainable.

Well Bermuda and the Health Reform Strategy and Action Plan all provide the blueprints to achieve the healthier Bermuda that I know we all believe is possible and want to see. I know every person in this room is committed to making this happen and we share in the belief that we cannot fix Bermuda’s health system without getting people to be healthier. This is why Well Bermuda is so fundamental.

Ultimately, we know that health is absolutely essential to any community. Without health, we perish because children can’t develop well and hit all their milestones to set them on a strong and prosperous path. Without health adults can’t work to raise families and care for their elders. Without health, our golden years tarnish and easily turn into a harrowing decade or two on a revolving door of healthcare institutions with a quality of life that is not deserved by anyone. We need health, and we need all of us to turn Bermuda into a community filled with healthy people.

Today in Bermuda, approximately two thirds of adults have at least one chronic non-communicable disease. This is an appalling situation. How did we get here? How did we – so educated and prosperous – allow ourselves to become such a sick population? To some extent, I think we all know it: An obesogenic environment conducive to poor lifestyles has bred a population that now struggles to sustain itself. And we are paying dearly for the state of our health. We pay for it in premiums and in the costs to the public purse, in addition to the pain and suffering to individuals and families.

But we can’t do it alone. None of us can. Changing our culture so that the healthy choice becomes the easier choice more often for more people will take a concerted and unified effort from all of us. Everyone makes an even bigger difference when we are all aiming for the same target. From the front line nurses helping people with asthma, to the changing of laws to reduce tobacco use. From the multi-disciplinary professionals who rally around a diabetic patient to manage their condition, to the policy decisions about insurance coverage for such care. All of these things make a difference that is multiplied in quantum measures when we do them together, as a single unifying voice for health.

So today, I wish you a highly successful meeting of the minds, as we unite as a single unifying voice for a “Well Bermuda”.

Thank you