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The Practice and Use of Picuristes-Lay Injectionists Among Haitian Immigrants in Miami-Dade County, Florida

Guitele Jeudy Rahill, Florida International University

Availability Restricted Thesis/Dissertation


This exploratory study examined use of picuristes among Haitian immigrants in Miami-Dade County, Florida. It describes how this health-seeking behavior is socially constructed among Haitian immigrants in terms of benefits. (b) risks, (c) sex, (d) gender, (e) acculturation proxies and (f) transnational influences. It is conducted within the frameworks of Symbolic Interactionism, the Health Belief Model and the Explanatory Model of Illness.

Purposive sampling and a mixed-method design were used to obtain semi-structured interviews of 10 picuristes and 25 users. The same methods were employed to select survey respondents so as to obtain a descriptive estimate of picuriste use and covariates of picuriste use within the sample. ATLAS.ti 5.0 and SPSS 14.0 were used to analyze the data.

The findings indicate an interconnection of elements from Vodou, traditional Haitian health beliefs and picuriste practice and use.

Rekonnèt, a relationship based on a history of trust with individuals related by blood or who share close personal and social ties was identified as a sufficient and necessary reason for picuriste practice and use.

Benefits reported are that the picuriste injections directly impact the blood, and that they represent affordable and convenient access to health care. Risks include rashes, abscesses and fevers. The reuse of injection equipment, routine injection of antibiotics and unknown substances and the improper discard of syringes and needles were reported, implying unrecognized risks of preventable infectious disease. No participant described a process that adheres to established international standards for safe injections.

There is no clear evidence that biological sex, gender, length of time in U.S. or language of interview influence picuriste practice or use. Transnational ties facilitate transport of substances from Haiti and the practice and use of picuristes locally.

Recommendation by a relative or trusted friend and believing that the benefits of picures outweigh risks were covariates of picuriste use.

This study highlights values and priorities of Haitian immigrants seeking health-care, and cultural forces that shape their decisions about wellness and treatment. Future studies should test the application of Symbolic Interactionism to picuriste use in larger epidemiological studies that examine picuriste use in relation to health status.