Every year around this time, hundreds of Bahamians begin preparing for the Boxing Day and New Year’s Day Junkanoo Parades.
This means hours-long bouts in the shacks.
While the building process requires movement and some heavy lifting, the pasting and decorating side of the Junkanoo production is mostly sedentary.
Individuals can spend hours on end working on a costume, without breaks.
This coupled with the unhealthy eating habits that are synonymous with shack life creates a less than desirable environment.
That’s part of the reason why the Ministry of Health and Wellness added “Maintaining Healthy Lifestyle in Junkanoo Shacks” to its Healthy Lifestyle Calendar of Events for September.
Former Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis, who has participated in Junkanoo since he was a boy, said the best way to promote healthy lifestyles in the shacks is to do get a health profile on the participants.
He noted that studies have shown high rates of high blood pressure, diabetes and other ailments in the Bahamian society.
“I don’t know what the ministry’s plan is, but what they should do is require all participants to do a physical examine, so that you would have their baseline profile.
“If people are hypertensive, you will know how to advise them. If they are diabetic, you will know how to advise them. If they have kidney issues, you will know how to advise them.”
Dr. Minnis, a former minister of health, suggested the Ministry of Health set up special screening sites specifically for Junkanoo participants.
“You need physical examinations,” he said. “Without that, if they have high blood pressure and it gets out of the control, they can go on Bay Street and drop down.”
“That should be a basic requirement if you want to improve their life and the quality of their life.”
He said access to proper medical care is one of the biggest obstacles a lot of people face.
Dr. Minnis noted that in the past, Junkanoo participants have experienced medical issues while rushing.
“About eight years ago, one of our bellers fell out on route and he subsequently died,” Dr. Minnis recalled.
While the medical records of that individual were not revealed, Dr. Minnis said he does not want to see a repeat of that.
Dr. Beverton Moxey, a gastroenterologist, who is also involved in Junkanoo, said there are a lot of factors that contribute to the unhealthy lifestyle in various Junkanoo shacks.
“They are pushing their bodies at late hours,” he noted.
“You have to be mindful to get sufficient rest, and there is a lot of bad eating. You kind of eat on the go and there is a lot of drinking. Those are things that they need to mindful of.”
He said Junkanoo leaders should promote healthy eating and the Ministry of Health should encourage Junkanoo groups to do the same.
“Junkanoo leaders should supply the shack with cases of water as opposed to alcoholic beverages.
“Another good idea is, sometimes we have some people whose wives or mothers cook big pots. Everyone can eat from that pot as opposed to getting fast food.
“Maybe have volunteers who can supply healthy meals.”