Haitian picuristes/injectionists as alternatives to conventional health care providers in South Florida

Soc Work Public Health. 2011;26(6):577-93. doi: 10.1080/19371918.2010.513649.


Barriers in seeking access to conventional health care services continue to be a problem in the United States, especially among recent racial and ethnic immigrants who tend to be least able to afford adequate health insurance coverage. Ethnic immigrants sometimes seek out traditional healers as unconventional providers of health care services to overcome barriers in accessing the conventional health care delivery system. The purpose of this work is to provide insight into the practices of Picuristes or Haitian "lay injectionists" in their role as alternative, unconventional providers of health care services among Haitian immigrants in South Florida. Based on in-depth interviews with 10 picuristes who were identified through venue and snowball sampling and who volunteered to participate in a larger exploratory study that examined various aspects of picuriste practices, findings revealed benefits and risks of seeking health care services from these traditional practitioners. Among the benefits reported to their services were greater accessibility, affordability, convenience, and cultural compatibility. Risks observed from analysis of picuriste interviews included the lack of formal medical training for picuristes, their nonadherence to established standards for safe injections and their potential to expose clients and the community to contaminated needles, syringes, and other biohazardous waste materials. Insight was also gained into how picuristes learned to practice their trade and to incorporate Haitian cultural beliefs regarding the relationship between clients and healers. Given the continuation of barriers to health care among ethnic immigrants, implications for conventional heath care practice and social policy are also discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Culture
  • Emigrants and Immigrants*
  • Female
  • Florida
  • Haiti / ethnology
  • Health Services Accessibility / economics*
  • Humans
  • Injections / adverse effects
  • Injections / statistics & numerical data
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Medically Uninsured / ethnology
  • Medicine, Traditional / economics
  • Medicine, Traditional / statistics & numerical data*
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / ethnology*
  • Qualitative Research