Today is World Obesity Day. Bermuda is one of the world's most obese jurisdictions. STEPS to a Well Bermuda Survey 2014 found that 34.4% or one out of every three adults in Bermuda is obese.
Bermuda's obesity epidemic is the number one public health challenge, and is a major driver for chronic ill-health. Adult obesity has well known health and economic consequences, both for the individual and society as a whole. The last four years of insurance claims data indicate an expected 10-year cost of obesity estimated at $15.8 million. This is just the direct cost of medical care and does not include indirect costs of things such as wages and work hours lost. Those indirect costs are part of the larger health economic impact.
Bermuda has an obesogenic living and work place environment where unhealthy diets and inactivity are the norm, facilitating weight gain and obesity. This was highlighted in the recent movie Greezin. This level of obesity puts Bermuda's population's health in danger, raising the risk of Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, fatty liver disease, sleep and musculoskeletal disorders, as well as reducing performance, harming mental health and putting future health and prosperity at risk.
Changes in food availability and type, and a decline in physical activity for transport or play, have resulted in an energy imbalance. Ultra-processed, energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods are cheaper and readily available. Opportunities for physical activity have been reduced and more time is spent on screen based and sedentary leisure activities.
The complexity of obesity calls for a comprehensive approach including governments, schools, families, communities and businesses. Without joint ownership and shared responsibility, well-meaning and cost-effective interventions have limited reach and impact.
The Government is helping to combat obesity through the Healthy Schools Programme, and the Premier's Youth Fitness Programme (PYFP).
Healthy Schools represents a partnership between the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education to work on the development of health initiatives in schools. The Healthy Schools partnership is vital in ensuring that the connection between education and health is maintained.
The PYFP emphasizes to schools and the community the importance of fitness as it relates to student health. This program is also a means of increasing children and teens' daily physical activity and healthy eating with their families outside of school.
In the Throne Speech 2017 the Government committed to engage all sectors of society in a coordinated, strategic plan to halt the rise in obesity and diabetes in Bermuda.
The Department of Health will launch a national plan to halt the rise in diabetes and obesity in early 2018. The Department is in a pre-consultation phase and if any groups wish to learn more or participate in the upcoming Obesity and Diabetes Prevention Symposium they should email the Director of Health David Kendell on firstname.lastname@example.org.
People spend their time at work, school, home or in a recreational setting. Those settings can have a great influence on lifestyle and habits. The proposed plan is not prescriptive but is intended to engage every part of the health system as well as greater society to prevent obesity and non-communicable chronic disease.