Increased traffic congestion is a telling tale of our escalating demand for fuel which is driven by the over  52,000 vehicles on the road. *Photos supplied
Increased traffic congestion is a telling tale of our escalating demand for fuel which is driven by the over 52,000 vehicles on the road. *Photos supplied

“Did you say you can’t find a job?” “We don’t drink our office water.” “My doctor’s appointment was rescheduled because of the power outage.” Yesterday I heard, “My sister and I share a room because my aunty and my cousin moved in.”

These comments are familiar and speak to the fundamentals of one’s health. They provide examples of individual economic, environmental and social needs, which are the three pillars of Sustainable Development (SD).

The Ministry of Health’s 2008 Well Bermuda Strategy states — healthy people, healthy families, and healthy communities — which illustrates that health has many dimensions.

In 1986 before Sustainable Development became chic, a charter was drafted in Ottawa by the World Health Organization (WHO). It listed the prerequisites for health.

The SD pillars are embedded in this list and these elements can either harm or enhance your quality of health. With the right balance of the SD principles in health management, generous cost savings and countless more benefits are waiting for you and Bermuda.

Let’s focus on our seniors.

People are living longer as a result of science. The Bermuda populace is ageing and the number of seniors (who use healthcare facilities more) is projected to double in 20 years.

We are also having fewer babies, which means less people paying into the funds that support pension and healthcare costs.

The trend of longer patient stays between 1998 and 2008 in the Continuing Care Unit and Hospice is evidence of longer life spans and an increasing demand for convalescent needs.

Imagine the conversation between the economist, health professional, educator, senior and insurer on the subject of healthcare.

Their collaboration would offer a blueprint for students and young adults contemplating career aspirations.

Additionally, the development of a well thought out gerontology industry would secure employment for Bermudians, allow business models to shift, reduce healthcare costs and maximize the quality of life for our seasoned residents.

Take a moment to consider the health challenges of Bermudian households in the low-income threshold.

The majority are single parents with one child.

Since rent eats up almost 60 per cent of their budget, the cost of nutritious food and annual medical check-ups compete with processed food, utilities and fuel.

Ailments can go unchecked and the risk of later diagnosis of disease increases. A parent and child in this paradigm have little opportunity to enjoy discretionary purchases like the movies, a restaurant night or other leisurely delights.

These are stressors on the health of the family unit.

Families, neighbours, churches and teachers are interacting with financially challenged families.

Effective collaboration and intervention should maximize the opportunity for their overall health.

Good health is a right of all persons regardless of their ability to pay.

Action is hard and responsibility needs to be shared and must not simply be on government’s lap.

Perhaps a chat in the living room with family and friends is a start.

The natural environment is just as important to our health.

In 2008 our visiting tourists spent approximately $300 million in Bermuda .

That same year, according to the Bermuda Department of Tourism, the 2009 Exit

Survey showed that 93 per cent of our leisure visitors enjoyed our natural scenic environment.

Even though Bermuda’s natural beauty adds much value to our economy, many local behaviours are detrimental to it.

Fossil fuel dependency is an example. The choice of bigger gas guzzling cars and the increased traffic congestion is a telling tale of our escalating demand for fuel which is driven by the over 52,000 vehicles on the road.

Currently, per capita, we produce 11 tons (the weight of about seven Volkswagen Beetles) of carbon dioxide per year from burning fossil fuel .

This toxic air pollutant impacts our air, drinking and marine water and ultimately our health. Sickness from the environment con- tributes to more medical visits.

Each of us can help reduce our fuel demand by using public transportation, carpooling or walking a day or two out of the week.

Businesses, social groups and especially healthcare facilities have an obligation to lead by example in reducing their carbon footprint.

Double-sided printing, automatic light sensors and energy efficient electronics is a start.

Alternative energy designs and technology offer greater savings and benefits that promote the health of our residents.

Sustainable development’s economic, social and environmental principles are interconnected and necessary to preserve our quality of life.

When balanced right, it promotes the basic health needs of today without com- promising the health of future generations. The challenge is for us both individually and collectively to take action now.

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