Cultural Competency and Haitian Immigrants


Health Care Practitioners

Purnell's Model

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Family roles & organization
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Workforce issues

Biocultural ecology

High-risk behaviors

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Death rituals

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Health care practices
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Health care practitioners




Types of traditional or ethnomedical practitioners include:

  • Voodoo practitioners -- Voodoo priests (Houngan) or priestesses (Mambo).  These practitioners are sought to help with supernatural illnesses.25, 26, 31, 32, 56    

    • They were "called" to this occupation and have had a long training period that includes an apprenticeship.56 

    • Their fees are usually substantial.26, 56

    • They are very well respected in the community, and often the richest persons in a rural Haitian community.56 

    • Voodoo practitioners can make a diagnosis by using cards, shells, or trances.26

    • Treatment by voodoo practitioners usually consists of dancing, incantations, herbal preparations, prayer, and calling on the loa.26, 32, 52

    • Depending on the disease, it may need to be treated by a voodoo  practitioner only;  or there could be a choice between a voodoo practitioner or a biomedical practitioner. Seizure and psychiatric disorders would be examples of problems that would only be treated by a houngan or mambo.26

    • It is not uncommon for American Haitians to seek the help of these practitioners even if it means going back to Haiti.37, 58 

    • Voodoo practitioners treat from a holistic perspective.52

  • Herbalists (docte fey)

    • These are the most common traditional healers in Haiti.26, 35 

    • They have no formal training.56

    • Herbalists are sought for common illnesses such as colds, fevers,  and diarrhea.26

    • They are also skilled in treating the supernatural illness called evil eye (Maldyok). This illness is caused by someone looking at your infant with envy.26, 56

    • Charges by herbalists vary depending on the severity of the illness.56

    • Herbalists treat from a holistic perspective.52 

  • Midwives (matron

    • These traditional midwives deliver most of the infants, especially in rural Haiti, as well as provide any needed prenatal care.26, 56 

    • The midwives also supervise the postpartum seclusion period.26, 56

    • All services provided by the midwives are covered by a preestablished fee.56 

    • They have no formal training.56 

  • Bone setters (docte zo)

    • These providers traditionally treat musculoskeletal problems.26

    • Treatments include: casts, massage, manipulation, poultices, and prayer. 26

    • They charge standardized fees.56  

  • Injectionists (pikirists)

    • Injectionists sually have some experience giving injections, and may have worked in a clinical setting.56

    • They will go from area to area giving people injections of whatever they want or need (medications or herbal preparations).26, 56

    • Injectionists charge a set fee per injection.56 

Copyright  2003