Cultural Competency and Haitian Immigrants


Nutrition Continued ... page 2

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




  • Haitians have a strong belief in the hot vs. cold equilibrium. 26, 29, 36 Illness is a result of an imbalance between hot and cold.  Haitians also believe that  to maintain health, a balance of hot and cold foods is necessary.11

  • Foods are thought to have light or heavy characteristics as well as hot/cold characteristics.26, 29, 30, 31, 32   Heavy foods are eaten in the daytime and light foods at night because they are easily digestible. Heavy foods include potatoes, cornmeal mush, and broiled plantains. Light foods include bread, soup, or hot chocolate milk.29, 30, 31, 32 Heavy foods should be eaten in the daytime to provide energy for labor.26, 29, 30, 31, 32, 36 The way a food is prepared can also determine if it is heavy or light,. For example, if plantain is unripened and boiled it is "heavy" while fried ripened plantain is considered "light". 29, 30, 31, 32 See hot/cold food chart.

  • There are thought to be certain times when you should not eat "hot" foods and times when you should not eat "cold" foods. For example, after getting hot from performing vigorous activities, one should not eat "cold" foods because it will throw you out of equilibrium.29 Diarrhea is thought to be a "hot" illness and thus requires cold food.58  Also, certain foods are not to be eaten during different stages of life. For example, in order to prevent acne, teens are not supposed to consume large amounts of orange or lemon juice.31, 32 

  • In the immediate postpartum period women are not to eat "cold" foods as they  are believed to lead to hemorrhage.29, 30 Tomatoes and white beans are thought to increase the odds of hemorrhage.29, 30, 44, 55 Foods that Haitians prefer during illness include bouillon, meat, plantain, dumplings, yam, pumpkin soup, porridge oatmeal and Akasan, which is creamed corn meal made with milk, sugar, cinnamon and vanilla.29

  • Haitians may be reluctant to try new foods and would rather not eat than eat unfamiliar foods.29, 30, 31

  • Common beverages include water, homemade fruit juices, coffee in the morning, and cold fruity soda. Tea is only used when sick.30 



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