Senior Thesis Abstract (Pierre)


The Culture of Haitian Medicine: Route 87

Nerlie Pierre

Sub-field: Medical Anthropology

Advisor: Fran Barg, Department of Anthropology & School of Medicine

Culture is defined as "the integrated pattern of belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations." Medicine is described to be "a substance or preparation used in treating disease." Hence, the culture of medicine is understood to be specific beliefs, practices, language, and methods of treating disease that can be transmitted from one generation to the next. The culture of medicine varies greatly among continents, countries, states, cities, towns, neighborhoods, homes, and individuals. Route 87, a small town in Haiti exhibits perfectly this phenomenon. Surrounded by progressing cities, this impoverished sector of Haiti remains distinct in its lifestyle, beliefs, and medical culture. Through contact with the founders of a United States outreach organization, based in Haiti, called Fondation de Secours Internationale Haiti, I have used the techniques of medical anthropology to learn about the town. From what is known, Route 87 is an impoverished sector of an already impoverished country that endures many of its repercussions—unsanitary conditions, poor quality foods, poor hygiene, exposure to undetected disease, etc. However, the members of this sector experience less disease outbreaks than the remainder of the country. Throughout this paper, I will discuss the history of traditional and Haitian medicine. I will also discuss the illness that plague Haiti, the influence of the HIV/AIDS epidemic during the 1991 coup d'état and how Route 87 locals don't seem to experience these outbreaks. Lastly, I will expose Route 87 culture, practices, and what is currently known about the medical system by drawing upon the social, biological and linguistic factors that will help me understand and to explain the reason for this disparity in disease and health.

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