WEDNESDAY, DEC. 5: BEST’s Blueprint on sustainable development aims to outline what it means to be a sustainable community and what it will take to get there.

Over the coming weeks the Bermuda Sun will continue publishing the text of the Blueprint, section by section.

We are almost at the end of Diabetes Awareness Month.

The 2010 Census showed an almost 50% increase over the decade in the number of people reported suffering from diabetes. A spokesperson for the Bermuda Diabetes Association believed this figure to be an underestimation; in fact, Ms. McKittrick stated: “There are definitely more than that — we estimate around 13 per cent of the population has been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.” Given the human and financial costs of this chronic yet largely preventable disease, this is unsustainable.”

As preventive measures include healthy food and exercise, the remedies are near at hand.

It is vital to increase the amount of open space available for recreation, sports, and relaxation as well as to promote the development of community gardening in every parish giving people the combined benefits of exercise, improved diet, food production, horticultural therapy, youth education, mini Parks and even crime prevention.

A 2006 study found that 64% of Bermudians are dangerously overweight and, more recently, the Bermuda Health System Profile (2009) concluded that “Most leading causes of death in Bermuda are now related to chronic, non-communicable conditions caused by lifestyle factors such as inactivity and poor diet”.

Bermuda now spends more on healthcare than almost every other country in the developed world, with an average of 19.8% of household consumption going towards health costs.

These are worrying statistics, particularly in a time of economic difficulty when many people are losing their jobs and struggling to pay for health insurance.

Many of these costly and fatal diseases can be avoided through simple lifestyle changes — “prevention is better than cure.”  BEST applauds the many weight loss challenges that have been developed in recent years. There is a need, however, for a more widespread and sustainable campaign.  Many Bermudian staple foods tend to be high in fat and often low in nutrients  While we should not necessarily eliminate these from our diets altogether, we need to actively reduce portion sizes and incorporate more foods that are low in fats and sweeteners, and high in nutrients.

Physical activity is another important component of a healthy lifestyle, and can be as simple as walking or cycling rather than using motorized transport.

Bermuda’s climate lends itself to active outdoor living and, while recreation areas are limited, there are various opportunities available for fitness and recreation. Safe and well-maintained recreation lands such as parks and beaches encourage use, fostering improved health and fitness, increased community and family unity, and reduced stress and an enhanced tourism experience.  Such areas are particularly important on a small island with no real wilderness and fewer social options than are available in large cities. Bermuda’s stock of recreational land is small and shrinking.

It is therefore important that we preserve and enhance each of our existing recreation areas, from parks and railway trails to the National Sports Centre, and look to supplement these wherever possible. Southlands is a case in point and, while this is referred to in Bermuda Housing Corporation (BHC) marketing materials for the Grand Atlantic development as “Southlands National Park”, such protections have yet to be legislated. 

BEST believes that a healthy lifestyle is an important ingredient to ensuring a sustainably high quality of life.

We would therefore like to see a large-scale health and wellness campaign that promotes all aspects of healthy living and begins in primary schools. In addition, we see it as critical to preserve and enhance our limited recreation areas, and actively encourage the positive use of them.  Ensuring that the necessary legal protections are in place to protect our open spaces, and preventing the alteration of such protections, will be key.

Furthermore, whenever any recreational developments are planned, existing zonings should be respected, key stakeholders must be actively engaged, and the EIA process must be carefully followed in order to ensure that the maximum social and economic value is achieved while minimizing any environmental costs.

Ultimately, keeping active and maintaining healthy portions and a balanced diet should have enormous benefits for the happiness of individuals, household budgets, and everyone’s health insurance premiums.

• This document was researched and written by members of the BEST research team led by: Alaina Cubbon, Stuart Hayward, Frances Marshall and Marlie Powell

In the next issue: Carrying Capacity: Bermuda is already one of the most densely populated areas of the world — what problems does this cause?