‘Three In Four Bermuda Residents Overweight’

October 20, 2017 | 31 Comments

“Bermuda today is suffering from epidemic-levels of obesity and chronic non-communicable diseases like diabetes and kidney disease, Minister of Health Kim Wilson said, “I know we don’t like to hear it, but three in four of Bermuda’s residents are overweight or obese. This is among the highest in the world, and it’s not okay.”

Speaking in the House of Assembly today [Oct 20], she said “Wherever you are right now, look around you, look at yourself, and count how many people are overweight or obese within your view? Be truly honest and include those you would may normally think of as “big boned” or “chunky”.

Minister Wilson and Community Health Nurse Valerie Arorash observe a member of the public being screened at one of the five ‘Taking it to the Streets’ free health screening events:

Health Minister Taking it to the Streets Bermuda Oct 2017

“Look in the mirror. Are you a woman with a waist measuring more than 35 inches or a man with a waist larger than 40 inches? If the answer is ‘yes’, then include yourself in the statistic.”

“We are too large, Mr Speaker. It pains me to say it, but we must wake up to this sad truth because if we don’t, we won’t get out of the spiral of disease and exorbitant health spending that we are currently on. It has to stop, and it starts with the person looking back at you in the mirror. But, make no mistake, Mr Speaker, obesity is not about how we look.

“Obesity, and the lifestyle choices that cause it, also lead to the early onset of preventable diseases like diabetes, kidney disease and heart disease. These conditions bear a terrible burden on those afflicted, on their families, and they are expensive to treat.”

The Minister’s full statement follows below:

Mr Speaker and Honourable Members,

I rise today to address this Honourable House about a matter of national importance. A matter significant to our economic prosperity and our physical survival: the prevalence of obesity and non-communicable diseases.

Mr Speaker, Bermuda today is suffering from epidemic-levels of obesity and chronic non-communicable diseases like diabetes and kidney disease. I know we don’t like to hear it, but three in four of Bermuda’s residents are overweight or obese. This is among the highest in the world, and it’s not okay.

I say this to my Honourable colleagues and the public: wherever you are right now, look around you, look at yourself, and count how many people are overweight or obese within your view? Be truly honest and include those you would may normally think of as “big boned” or “chunky”.

Look in the mirror. Are you a woman with a waist measuring more than 35 inches or a man with a waist larger than 40 inches? If the answer is ‘yes’, then include yourself in the statistic.

We are too large, Mr Speaker. It pains me to say it, but we must wake up to this sad truth because if we don’t, we won’t get out of the spiral of disease and exorbitant health spending that we are currently on. It has to stop, and it starts with the person looking back at you in the mirror. But, make no mistake, Mr Speaker, obesity is not about how we look.

Obesity, and the lifestyle choices that cause it, also lead to the early onset of preventable diseases like diabetes, kidney disease and heart disease. These conditions 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 just can’t afford this.

Mr Speaker, The Ministry of Health is committed to tackling the scourge of obesity and chronic, non-communicable diseases on our population. Our future prosperity depends on this because sick people can’t work or study, and they become an economic burden rather than productive members of society.

For this reason, the Throne Speech 2017 highlighted our commitment to health and wellness. I would like to highlight some of the initiatives we are engaged it to tackle this issue, in partnership with broader community organizations.

Mr Speaker, I want to start with ‘Taking it to the Streets’. This summer the Department of Health took its Community Health Nursing Team to the streets and screened more than 350 people and referred 126 for additional medical assessment. Persons were referred because the screenings found significantly elevated blood pressure and blood sugar readings at these free health checks.

Mr Speaker, this means one in three persons screened were at risk and in need of medical attention. How many other people are walking among us today in a similar state?

Chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension are called “silent killers” because many sufferers do not feel sick – they have no symptoms. Screening is an important tool for testing and early detection before symptoms develop and before debilitating disease takes hold. Lives may have been saved because of this.

Mr Speaker, The next initiative I want to highlight is the recent Celebrating Wellness event.

I know my Honourable Colleagues agree with Fredrick Douglas’ statement that: “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men”. The Department of Health takes this dictum very seriously.

The seventh annual Celebrating Wellness event was held last month with the theme “Ensuring a Brighter Future for our Youth”. The event provided a supportive forum and targeted information with demonstrations of sport, health and fitness related activities, a selection of healthy food options and free health screenings. Initiatives like this, Mr Speaker, help us to get the word out and to make health the easier choice.

Mr Speaker, We know that physical activity is good for us at any age. To this end, the Health Promotion Office held the ‘50 Million Step Challenge’. This fun and highly successful challenge was an inter-parish walking competition held from August to September that had participants hitting the railway trail and sidewalks every day with their pedometers.

Adults are advised to remain active for approximately 30 minutes a day and as a guideline walking 10,000 steps daily will assure adequate physical activity.

Bermuda’s walkers showed that what they are made of, and more than doubled the original goal to 100 million steps taken! The overall parish team winner was Team St. Georges Steppers. To reward their winning efforts, outdoor fitness equipment will be installed in a designated park in St George’s parish, which will include wheelchair accessible equipment.

But, Mr Speaker, while we all know that an ‘ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’, the truth is that once you’re ill we have to invest that ‘pound’ to manage your disease and get you back on the right track.

For this purpose, the Health Insurance Department has the ‘Enhanced Care Pilot’. This 18-month pilot programme targets under-insured and uninsured persons with obesity or overweight, hypertension, diabetes, asthma/COPD, and coronary vascular disease. It aims to improve chronic disease management to reduce disease complications, unnecessary hospitalisation and emergency room visits. Currently over 150 participants have enrolled, and initial feedback is very encouraging.

Lastly, Mr Speaker, I want to highlight an important development that should help the country manage chronic diseases better: the establishment of a ‘National Register of Chronic Diseases’. Work to develop a Register for selected chronic diseases is underway. This will require the cooperation of private and public health sectors and its success is vitally important. Accurate national health statistics are a basic requirement to address the chronic disease problem in Bermuda. We must be able to know the population’s health status and accurately track our progress following interventions.

Mr Speaker, This is just an overview of activities underway today. Some were started under the previous administration, and I’m entirely committed to continuing this good work because it benefits Bermuda as a whole.

In addition, we are hard at work to develop proposals for Bermuda’s Sugar Tax, which we intend to begin consultation on in the coming months. And I am personally committed to re-introducing the Vending Machine Policy in Government Buildings to ensure healthier options are available on Government properties. We must not continue to promote the very choices that make us sick and cost us so dearly.

My Ministry looks forward to continuing this work, and we hope this Honourable House will join us in these efforts to halt the rise in obesity in Bermuda.

Thank you Mr Speaker.

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Comments (31)

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  1. Comfortably numb says:

    A first step might be to stop describing people as thick, big boned, fluffy, curvaceous, voluptuous etc. The correct description would be fat. No ifs, no buts, just fat.

    • Truths says:

      And in a lot of cases: MORBIDLY OBESE.

    • 5 cent, 10 cent says:

      No ifs, a lot of butts

    • Attitude Of Gratitude says:

      Said someone who’s clearly never struggled with being overweight! Get off your high horse, or in this case from behind your keyboard and come up with something useful to contribute to this subject!

      • ella says:

        so what is the solution? I want to hear!!

        • Stateside Bermudian says:

          Try to get out and walk briskly at least 30 minutes a day, will do wonders!! And go for an 1800 calorie, well-balanced intake a day. Little by little, the weight will be shaved off and kept off. Maintain desired weight with about 2100 cals. a day. You CAN do it!!!!!

          • JUNK YARD DOG says:

            If you are FAT . See your doctor before getting on an exercise program.

      • Comfortably numb says:

        There should be no struggle with weight: three simple ways to lose weight – diet, exercise or both. Of course you need a little discipline to to stick to one or all three.

    • Double S says:

      Or ‘plus-size.’

    • ella says:

      Totally agree with you! idec of the fat people get upset. It is what it is!!

    • ella says:

      Totally agree with you! It is what it is! It is what we see!!

  2. Um Um Like says:

    Obesity is a sin. We need the churches to get involved. Maybe we could start a charity, Preserve Your Weight.

    • keeping it real says:

      I rather be suffering from obesity sin than suffering from a gay sin.

  3. Hmmmm says:

    I would encourage everyone to find a fitness class or activity that they enjoy!!! Dance cardio, like SocaFit, F3, or Zumba are really fun – and hardly feels like exercise. Or join a group like Beat the Couch, or any running/walking club. Or enlist a personal trainer. It’s so worth it!

  4. Kim Smith says:

    Being healthy (and of a healthy weight) is so much more difficult in this day and age with our sedentary lifestyles… not to mention the many unhealthy foods on offer… and the size of the portions that are now commonplace. However, if we want quality of life, the work is required. The price of fresh and better food is almost unbelievable and, I believe, needs to be looked into.

    • Delaey Robinson says:

      Agreed. A ‘punitive’ or ‘discourage purchasing’ tax is not enough if folks cannot afford good food. All the revenue raised on the proposed sugar tax should be employed in subsidies on good food and new money should be spent on ensuring people get the necessary information to embark on lifestyle changes including both the right foods as well as exercise.

  5. PBanks says:

    Perhaps efforts to pedestrianize the city will have the knock on effect of encouraging people to walk (or cycle) around more. Getting our public transportation back in decent order might also encourage people to forego bus/motorcycles at least occasionally, which leads to more walking.

    One good thing that came from the prior administration was setting up fitness ‘stations’ in some of our public parks like the Arboretum and at National Stadium’s North field. Getting more use out of our public parks can only be a good thing.

    Hmmm has a very good point about finding a group to help in your fitness journey. Shoot, sometimes all you need is one buddy and you can encourage each other via daily walks/runs/other exercise routines.

    • Delaey Robinson says:

      You are right on, pedestrianize the city, walk in less pollution, just walk. It will be slightly complicated by the need for merchants to get their goods to shops, so some hours, say before 7am and after 7pm for service vehicles.

      Its a lifestyle change that three in four people need.

      Keep writing encouraging things PBanks, Bda needs help from people like you.

  6. Weighth loss says:

    My old insurance company in the U.S. used to give me back $400 every 6 months if I could prove I went to the gym 3 times a week (gym prints out sign in log). That was $800 a year of free money. Then I came back here and hit up ice queen and KFC…oops. Gotta get back to it.

  7. A Chap called Vanz says:

    Considering that many expats seem to be very active healthy, must be looking at about 7 out of 8 Bermudians if this report includes all residents.

  8. Reality check says:

    This is a cause that Bermudians could and should get together behind . It doesn’t cost anything to encourage and support our family , friends and neighbours in a healthier lifestyle .

  9. ella says:

    Them Bermudians! Bermudians like to eat!!

  10. Joey says:

    Some could kick start a jumbo jet.

  11. Coffee says:

    We probably would have had a full house if so many Bermudians hadn’t moved overseas .

  12. Real Onion says:

    yup,jelly women.

  13. JUNK YARD DOG says:

    FOODS THAT KILL, PACKAGED PROCESSED FOODS ,SUGAR ,RED MEAT AND CHICKEN.

  14. JUNK YARD DOG says:

    May be this will do it

    Air Amuulance $12,000. +++

    Heart opperation in Boston $60,000.+++

    7 pills a day for the rest of your short life.

    Heart attack pain is excruciation, having twins is easier.

  15. JUNK YARD DOG says:

    Want to loose weight and have fun doing it.

    Too dangerous to walk on the streets ?

    Bring back” Ball Room Dancing” , open those Church halls 7.00 pm till 10.00 pm nightly ….. NO fooooooood !

  16. Plump says:

    Not what we want to hear at all, but Thank You Madame Should Have Been Premier, The Hon. Kim Wilson, JP, MP.

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