Issues related to mental health, well-being and quality of life are increasingly in the headlines these days. In recent months, these topics have been tackled in depth in webinars, conferences, policy debates and the media. If the COVID-19 pandemic has served for nothing else, it has certainly focused our minds on this important but frequently overlooked aspect of our existence.
The overwhelming conclusion is that we need to look further than Malta’s GDP to measure true progress. We need to consider wealth beyond material wealth and health beyond purely physical health. We need to look deep inside every individual and ask them if they are really feeling okay. If they’re not, why not and what can be done to make their lives better?
Over the past month alone, we witnessed a conference on ‘The State of the Nation’ under the auspices of the president of Malta, a national conference launching Malta’s Economic Vision 2030 and contributions by various key players in civil society, including the Malta Employers’ Association, whose conference focused on the tensions and synergies between quality of life and economic growth.
The media these days devote extensive coverage to these issues, suggesting that the theme has struck a chord with the needs and wants of people in Malta.
It has been a long time coming. Back in 2015, at the very first annual conference of the then newly-established Foundation for the Well-being of Society, one of the key messages was the need for enhanced well-being measurement and policy.
Keynote speakers had talked about the need to institute well-being metrics and for policy to be properly evaluated so that it brings about well-being for all.
With this objective in mind, the foundation undertook a plethora of projects including research, advocacy and on-the-ground initiatives seeking to understand the drivers and barriers to well-being and, wherever possible, to suggest improvements and influence government policy through educational and informative studies and sessions.
No sector of society was left out. The projects spanned diverse communities and demographics including children, the elderly, migrants, women, the LGBTQ+ community and the man and woman in the street.
We need to look further than Malta’s GDP to measure true progress- Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca
What we found was that there are marked differences in the quality of life and well-being experienced by various sections of society in Malta. These are reflected in inequitable access to physical and mental health, income and employment, family and social interaction, levels of education and skills, environmental quality, freedom of expression and engagement as well as time dedicated to leisure and open spaces.
These and several other factors are all markers of well-being and the conclusion we reached was that inequalities are likely to increase in the future rather than vice versa, which would, undoubtedly, have a detrimental effect on our nation.
It is for this reason that the Malta Foundation for the Well-being of Society believes that transformative action in these and other areas is now a matter of urgency. To achieve this, one of the foundation’s key objectives is to develop appropriate mechanisms to measure well-being on a national level so that these findings can direct its future work and influence policy.
With this in mind, we have launched a strategic project in collaboration with the University of Malta known as the ‘Malta Well-being INDEX Project’.
This far-reaching project involves the collection of indicators, extensive networking, data collection, exploration of existing research and data and eXchange (hence the name INDEX).
A multidisciplinary team of researchers is already at work to assess well-being dashboards, examine well-being data sets and review best practice in the policy-making field. We aim to use this invaluable data to present an accurate image of our society today.
The foundation believes in an aspirational, inclusive, just, equitable and eco-friendly society where all people may grow, enjoy a quality life which is sustainable and engage in productive and meaningful relationships. In such a society nobody is sidelined and human rights and dignity are respected.
The foundation is also committed to forging alliances with other entities within civil society and with local and international institutions.
I strongly urge stakeholders with an interest in well-being policy and measurement to come forward so that we may continue the national conversation on well-being in a meaningful manner and eventually make tangible and sustainable proposals to make Malta a better place for all of us.
To take part in this conversation, please get in touch at email@example.com.
Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, President Emeritus and chair, Malta Foundation for the Well-being of Society