Show me the data
If you have been experiencing migraines on and off throughout the year, trying different over-the-counter medication, you may decide on visiting your doctor to find out what is going on. The doctor would not only treat what is ailing you, perhaps with stronger prescription medication, but they also would want to try to find out what is causing the headaches. This is an example of getting to the bottom of an issue to prevent it from recurring.
By drilling down and taking a deep dive, the core problem can be determined, which would help to figure out a plan of action to effect change and achieve a positive outcome. In the above doctor analogy, the headaches could have been caused by any number of things, such as stress and depression, too much alcohol or poor posture. If the cause is not identified and dealt with, the headaches would likely continue.
As we all know, Bermuda has some deep-seeded social issues, such as gangs, gun violence and general crime, which have lingered and seem to have no end. It does not appear we are making any headway in solving what is driving them. We also have cultural issues, such as speeding and alcohol abuse that too often leads to injuries and deaths on our roads.
Even before the pandemic, which we have been dealing with over the past year and a half, the wellbeing of our community seemed to be on the decline. We must find a way to measure and monitor this on a regular basis.
The first important step to problem solving is to define the problem itself and find out what exactly is going on. Before possible solutions are brainstormed to formulate the best way forward, it is critical to establish the primary causes of the issue. A crisis may warrant immediate action to bring a short-term respite, but to prevent or to lessen recurrences in the long term, the heart of the issue must be identified.
The department that could assist with discovering the root causes of our ongoing problems is the Department of Statistics. It can act as a facilitator and data collector to help the various stakeholders fully analyse and understand the issues they are facing and assist to measure the outcomes. If this is not the role of the DoS, it would need to have an expanded remit within the Civil Service.
I have already outlined in previous opinions the need for finding out the “how” and “why” on two key issues that are negatively impacting Bermuda.
There are differences of opinion over why our young people join gangs, particularly Black males. How do we tackle the problem and prevent others from joining in the future if we do not agree on the underlying reasons for joining and actively participating? Once and for all, we need to reach a consensus of what is going on. Further details regarding this are outlined in my “Stop the violence: act or be acted upon” opinion.
2, Vehicle crashes
The Minister of Transport previously stated: “Bermuda’s death and injury toll on the roads is a national health crisis.” Unfortunately, we are averaging one fatality per month so far this year. What are the main causes? Is the culprit speed, too much alcohol, or perhaps driving without due care? What are the economic and productivity losses because of all the accidents? As I stated in “A cure for our culture of speed”, Bermuda must reduce the rash of crashes and deaths on our roads to prevent injuries and save lives.
All the information that is required for the above analysis should be within the reach of the DoS as the caretaker of the data, and which is within the Public Service sector. Information and trends gleaned from the data should give a broader appreciation and scope of the challenges, and help stakeholders to make better-informed decisions on some of the key issues they are dealing with.
By embracing data analysis, personal opinions and gut feelings would be avoided. It is also the most effective way of getting buy-in, as showing the information would help to improve transparency.
A deeper understanding is also needed for the following matters:
• Cost of healthcare
The Bermuda Government has embarked on an ambitious task of introducing a single unified insurance plan with the aim of making healthcare more affordable. A single-payer system does have benefits. Primarily, it would give more leverage than using multiple providers, which should lead to lower pricing.
Although there are challenges with this type of insurance model, many countries around the world have similar types of healthcare plans. The Commonwealth Foundation, an American healthcare advocacy group, found countries that provided universal health coverage had the best-performing healthcare systems.
To ensure the proposed Bermuda Health Plan will not have the same underlying cost challenges that existing healthcare plans have today, it would be prudent of the Government to carry out and share an analysis on our present healthcare costs. That is, which factors within healthcare have made it expensive in the first place?
From 2006 up to and including 2020, the Department of Statistics reported that “Health and Personal Care”, which is a component of the consumer price index, had increased annually by an average of 5.7 per cent per year, while the CPI itself increased 2.1 per cent over the same 15-year span. I have just one question — why? The Bermuda Health Plan may face the same financial barriers if we do not do a deeper dive into the data, which the DoS has.
One of my favourite nursery rhymes and songs that I sang at Sunday school in church was “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands”. I remember clapping my hands and stomping my feet as loud as I could.
Happiness is important for a country’s wellbeing. For clarity, happiness in this context is not just having fun momentarily or doing something you enjoy; happiness is more long-lasting and sustained.
Sustainable happiness has been proven to lead to better health and longevity, better work performance, more supportive social relationships (less likely divorces), more giving back to society, and better mental health and resilience, which helps one to deal with life’s challenges better. A happy community leads to a productive society and benefits everyone in it.
Bermuda should assess its happiness because it is considered a useful way to guide public policy and measure its effectiveness. The same model could be adopted as the one used in the World Happiness Index, which includes 156 countries around the world that survey their citizens on how they score themselves according to six variables:
• GDP per capita (purchasing power)
• Healthy life expectancy
• Generosity (donations to charity)
• Social support (having someone to count on in troubled times)
• Freedom to make life decisions
The results could be evaluated across the whole island and be segmented by, for example, age, gender, ethnicity and country of origin. It would be great if we can measure ourselves against other countries to gauge where we rank and where we need to improve. More importantly, the data could be analysed to compare the different segments of our community. Specific policies and initiatives could be created to close those gaps.
According to the WHI report, Finland ranks No 1 as the happiest country out of those that have been surveyed. Finland has extensive welfare benefits, low levels of corruption, and a sense of freedom and independence. Its progressive taxation and wealth distribution has allowed the country to have a world-leading universal healthcare system.
Finland and other European countries such as Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands regularly score high on the WHI. One of the advantages they have is not having to deal with a racial history, and the inequality and lack of trust it has produced. In fact, some of these countries have even benefited.
That said, Bermuda must find a way to deal with its legacy outcomes, as this is the single issue that prevents us as a country from reaching our potential. But this is another story for another day.
It is time for Bermuda to embrace preventive policies and practices to improve the quality of life for all its residents. Reacting to problems does help to solve the matter in the short term. However, just like the doctor that would want to find out the cause of their patient’s headaches, we need to find the root causes of the issues plaguing our community.
Using another doctor analogy, it is advisable to have an annual checkup for ongoing health benefits. Regular preventive care is one of the best ways to examine if all is well and to detect health issues before they get worse. These visits could also monitor your progress towards your health goals. Similarly, Bermuda needs to have its annual checkup through a Happiness survey. The report would show our wellbeing and whether new policies, initiatives or actions are needed to treat any concerns before they become a crisis, like the ones we have now.
• Malcolm Raynor has worked in the telecommunications industry in Bermuda for more than 30 years. Benefiting from Cable & Wireless’ internal training and education programmes held in Bermuda, Barbados, St Lucia (The University of the West Indies), and the UK, he rose to the level as senior vice-president. An independent thinker possessing a moderate ideology, his opinions are influenced by principle, data and trends