The Well Bermuda Partnership Annual meeting took place last week – with the Bermuda Healthy Schools Programme as one of the featured topics.

The Well Bermuda National Health Promotion Strategy provides a clear vision for a healthy Bermuda and was launched in 2006.

The Well Bermuda Partnership Annual Meeting provides an opportunity for all the lead agencies to come together and report on the progress towards their goals.

“A tremendous amount takes place in Bermuda to control and contain preventable health threats,” said Acting Director of the Department of Health David Kendell. “Well Bermuda is intended to provide a unifying vision and a set of goals for a healthy Bermuda.

“At the annual meetings we get the chance to reflect on our successes and challenges and plan further action to achieve the goals that we have set.  The collaborative process continues to build trust and communication, strengthen relationships across the health system and inspire further action from the progresses made.

“The scope of the work underway is expansive…covering communicable diseases, chronic diseases and their risk factors, healthy living, working and recreational environments, violence and injury prevention, quality of life for vulnerable persons, parenting, healthy development, and emotional and mental wellbeing."

The Minister of Health and Seniors the Hon. Patricia Gordon-Pamplin JP MP echoed these sentiments on the importance of collaboration during her opening remarks at the meeting:

“As we are living in times of a downturn in our economy and having to do more with less, the importance of collaboration in promoting holistic health cannot be more stressed,” said the Minister. “With all of us working in coordination with each other, the impact of our efforts will be magnified exponentially. Each member of this partnership brings unique contributions toward the common goal of a Well Bermuda.

“The health concerns of the twenty-first century are very different from what we faced just fifty years ago.

“Today the most significant health problems in Bermuda are strongly related to lifestyle factors and tackling these problems requires new ways of thinking and working, hence the need for coordinated efforts through a National Health Promotion Strategy.”

The overall theme of this year’s meeting was the importance of collaboration in the success of the strategy.

Attendees at the meeting included representatives from the lead agencies, persons who work with various lead agencies, Department of Health Administration, the Minister of Health and Seniors and also a special featured guest.

The Department of Health’s Healthy Schools Coordinator Marie Beach-Johnson was a featured speaker this year along with Mrs. Sonia Dawes who is a teacher at Bermuda Institute and Mr. Stephen Coddington, Deputy Principal at Victor Scott School.

Mrs. Dawes shared with attendees her moving journey to becoming healthier which saw her lose close to 150 pounds through healthy eating and exercise – something which she attributed, in part, to the talks that ‘Healthy Schools’ gave at her school.

Mr. Coddington, meanwhile, shared the various health promoting activities and programmes that Victor Scott has at the school for the children and for the teachers.

The meeting was sobered by stories of the realities being faced by Bermuda’s vulnerable populations - children attending school hungry and seniors having to choose between paying for medication or paying for groceries, and then bolstered by tales of residents adopting healthier lifestyles and practices after being educated and empowered, receiving free health screenings and being connected with care. 

“The Well Bermuda Partners are dedicated to improving the health of Bermuda’s residents through prevention, promotion and protection activities,” said Mr. Kendell. “Without the health and wellbeing of our population we cannot create or enjoy wealth. Health must come first.

“Additional community partnerships and alliances are being mobilized, health policies and laws are being reviewed, created and modernized, health care providers being trained and aligned with best practices and competencies and research is being conducted.

“The value of a healthy lifestyle is immeasurable.  It is essential to ensure quality of life for children, adults and seniors. Additionally, a healthy population is fundamental to ensure a capable workforce and future capacity.”

The ultimate goal of Well Bermuda is a healthy Bermuda starting from the World Health Organisation’s definition of health as “a state of complete physical, social and mental wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”.

Background on Well Bermuda

In 2004 the Department of Health conducted a process to ascertain Health Priorities for Bermuda. 20 community and government organizations came together to review Bermuda’s leading causes of death, the 2000 Census information on self-reported health conditions, the 1999 Adult Wellness Survey and the 2001 Teen Wellness Survey.

Through a process of discussion and ranking it was established that our most pressing health issues are: overweight and obesity, heart disease and stroke, respiratory diseases, diabetes, accidents and violence, sexually transmitted infections, HIV/AIDS, mental illness, back spine problems, cancer, substance abuse, smoking, chronic renal disease and arthritis.

The next step was to develop a strategic direction to address these priorities. The Well Bermuda National Health Promotion strategy was developed to provide a unifying vision, a shared agenda with common goals and objectives so we can achieve better results in efforts to improve the health of Bermuda.