Hypertension among Haitians Living in the Bahamas

John G. Mazzeo


For many Haitians in the Bahamas, migration and the process of adapting to life in an often hostile environment creates stress and may be correlated with high blood pressure. This study examines the social determinants of hypertension among Haitians in the Bahamas by exploring how experiences of migration create stress that is believed to cause high blood pressure. The Haitian explanatory model of high blood pressure, tansyon, explains the relationships between variables such as diet, stress, and poverty, and the blood. Research was conducted in several Haitian communities in New Providence and Abaco using ethnographic methods such as interviews and participant observation. Information about hypertension was also obtained during community blood pressure education workshops conducted in collaboration with Haitian community associations. This study offers valuable insights for public health efforts in the Bahamas on the issue of hypertension in the Haitian community. This study is relevant to researchers studying the connections between hypertension and migration for populations originating from less developed countries.


Haitians; Hypertension

Full Text:

PDF Full text


Archer, D. (2005). The Haitian diaspora in the Abacos. Solution.

Bahamas Department of Statistics. (2004). Bahamas living conditions survey, 2001. https://www.bahamas.gov.bs/wps/wcm/connect/d01ce76a-75b4-4229-baae-af3b87b6816c/Bahamas+Living+Conditions+Survey+2001+report-Copy.pdf?MOD=AJPERES

Bahamas Department of Statistics. (2005). Basic health indicators 2006.

Bahamas Department of Statistics. (2007). Occupations & wages report 2007. Ministry of Finance.

Bahamas Department of Statistics. (2008). The ten leading causes of death, all ages, both sexes, all Bahamas, 2006.

Bahamas Ministry of Health and Environment. (1994). The impact of Haitian migration on the Bahamas: A health services digest.

Beauvoir, M. G. (2006). Herbs and energy: The holistic medical system of the Haitian people. In P. Bellgarde-Smith & C. Michel (Eds.), Haitian vodou: Spirit, myth, and reality (pp. 112-133). Indiana University Press.

Becker, G., Beyene, Y., & Pauline, K. (2000). Memory, trauma, and embodied distress: The management of disruption in the stories of Cambodians in exile. Ethos, 28(3), 320-345. https://doi.org/10.1525/eth.2000.28.3.320

Bernard, R. H. (2006). Research methods in anthropology: Qualitative and quantitative approaches. (4th ed.). AltaMira Press.

Brathwaite, A. F., Brathwaite, V., Pratt, C., & Brathwaite, N. (2002). HIV infections in Grand Bahama, 1991-1995: A comparative analysis with 1985-1990. Bahamas Journal of Science, 10(1), 23-29.

Brathwaite, N., Brathwaite, A., & Taylor, M. (2011). The socio-economic determinants of obesity in adults in the Bahamas. West Indian Medical Journal, 60(4), 434-441. https://www.mona.uwi.edu/fms/wimj/system/files/article_pdfs/dr_brathwaite.qxd_.pdf

Brodwin, P. (2003). Marginality and subjectivity in the Haitian diaspora. Anthropological Quarterly, 76(3), 383-410. https://doi.org/10.1353/anq.2003.0034

Castañeda, H. (2010). Im/migration and health: Conceptual, methodological, and theoretical propositions for applied anthropology. NAPA Bulletin, 34, 6-27. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1556-4797.2010.01049.x

Chavez, L. R. (2003). Immigration and medical anthropology. In N. Foner (Ed.), American arrivals: Anthropology engages the new immigration (pp. 197-228). School of American Research Press.

International Organization for Migration, & College of the Bahamas. (2006). Haitian migrants in the Bahamas, 2005: A report for the International Organization for Migration. http://ufdc.ufl.edu/AA00078779/00001

Craton, M., & Saunders, G. (2000). Islanders in the stream: A history of the Bahamian people. Vol. 2. University of Georgia Press.

Cruickshank, J. K., Mbanya, J. C., Wilks, R., Balkau, B., McFarlane-Anerson, N., & Forrester, T. (2001). Sick genes, sick individuals or sick populations with chronic disease? The emergence of diabetes and high blood pressure in African-origin populations. International Journal of Epidemiology, 30, 111-117. https://doi.org/10.1093/ije/30.1.111

Dressler, W. W. (1982). Hypertension and culture change: Acculturation and disease in the West Indies. Redgrave.

Dressler, W. W. (1999). Modernization, stress, and blood pressure: New directions in research. Human Biology, 71(4), 583-605. https://www.jstor.org/stable/41465764

Dressler, W. W., Grell, G. A., Gallagher, P. N., & Viteri, F. E. (1992). Social factors mediating social class differences in blood pressure in a Jamaican community. Social Science & Medicine, 35(10), 1233-1244. http://doi.org/10.1016/0277-9536(92)90177-R

Farmer, P. (1988). Bad blood, spoiled milk: Bodily fluids as moral barometers in rural Haiti. American Ethnologist, 15(1), 62-83. https://doi.org/10.1525/ae.1988.15.1.02a00050

Farmer, P. (1992). AIDS and accusation: Haiti and the geography of blame. University of California Press.

Fassin, D. (2004). Social illegitimacy as a foundation of health inequality: How the political treatment of immigrants illuminates a French paradox. In A. Castro & M. Singer (Eds.), Unhealthy health policy: A critical anthropological examination (pp. 203-214). Altamira Press.

Fielding, W. J., Ballance, V., Scriven, C., McDonald, T., & Johnson, P. (2008). The stigma of being "Haitian" in the Bahamas. The College of the Bahamas Research Journal, 14, 38-50. https://doi.org/10.15362/ijbs.v14i0.97

Frelick, B., & Lynch, M. (2005). Statelessness: A forgotten human rights crisis. Forced Migration Review, 24, 65-66. http://www.fmreview.org/FMRpdfs/FMR24/FMR2439.pdf

Hedner, T., Kjeldsen, S., Narkiewicz, K., & Oparil, S. (2010). Blood pressure and migration. Blood Pressure, 19(2), 65-66. https://doi.org/10.3109/08037051003731724

Henry, D. (2006). Violence and the body: Somatic expressions of trauma and vulnerability during war. Medical Anthropology Quarterly, 20(3), 379-398. https://doi.org/10.1525/maq.2006.20.3.379

Ho, M. J. (2003). Migratory journeys and tuberculosis risk. Medical Anthropology Quarterly, 17(4), 442-458. https://doi.org/10.1525/maq.2003.17.4.442

James, E. C. (2010). Democratic insecurities: Violence, trauma, and intervention in Haiti. University of California Press.

Jean-Baptise, E. D., Larco, P., Charles-Larco, N., Vilgrain, C., Simon, D., & Charles, R. (2006). Glucose intolerance and other cardiovascular risk factors in Haiti (PREDIAH). Diabetes & Metabolism, 32(5), 443-451. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1262-3636(07)70302-6

Kleinman, A. (1980). Patients and healers in the context of culture: An exploration of the borderland between anthropology, medicine, and psychiatry. University of California Press.

Laguerre, M. S. (1987). Afro-Caribbean folk medicine. Bergin and Garvey.

Lluberas, G., Parrish, L. A. M., & Kling, C. M. (2000). Hypertension prevalence in a rural Haitian missionary clinic. The Nurse Practitioner, 25(11), 59-61. https://doi.org/10.1097/00006205-200025110-00005

Marshall, D. (1979). The Haitian problem: Illegal migration to the Bahamas. Institute of Social and Economic Research, University of the West Indies.

Nijhawan, M. (2005). Deportability, medicine, and the law. Anthropology & Medicine, 12(3), 271-285. https://doi.org/10.1080/13648470500291436

Niska, R. W., & Sloand, E. (2010). Ambulatory medical care in rural Haiti. Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, 21(1), 70-80. https://doi.org/10.1353/hpu.0.0256

Preston, R. A., Materson, B. J., Yoham, M. A., & Anapol, H. (1996). Hypertension in Haitians: A pilot survey of a public teaching hospital multispecialty clinic. Journal of Human Hypertension, 10(11), 743-745. https://doi.org/10.1016/0895-7061(95)97872-O

Rylko-Bauer, B., Whiteford, L. M., & Farmer, P. (2009). Prologue: Coming to terms with global violence and health. In B. Rylko-Bauer, L. M. Whiteford, & P. Farmer (Eds.), Global health in times of violence (pp. 3-16). School for Advanced Research Press.

Schoenthaler, A. M., Schwartz, J., Cassells, A., Tobin, J. N., & Brondolo, E. (2010). Daily interpersonal conflict predicts masked hypertension in an urban sample. American Journal of Hypertension, 23(10), 1082-1088. https://doi.org/ 10.1038/ajh.2010.141

Shipp, M. L. (2001). Awareness status and prevalence of hypertension in a group of urban Haitians: Findings of a population-based survey. Ethnicity & Disease, 11(3), 419-430. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11572408/

Singer, M., & Clair. S. (2003). Syndemics and public health: Reconceptualizing disease in bio-social context. Medical Anthropology Quarterly, 17(4), 423-441. https://doi.org/10.1525/maq.2003.17.4.423

Stepick, A. (1998). Pride against prejudice: Haitians in the United States. Allyn and Bacon.

Strachan, I. G. (2011, June 2). The Haitian problem. Nassau Guardian. https://www.bahamaslocal.com/newsitem/24022/The_Haitian_problem.html

Tinker, K. L. (2011). The migration of peoples from the Caribbean to the Bahamas. University Press of Florida.

Tomson, J., & Lip, G. Y. (2005). Blood pressure demographics: Nature or nurture, genes or environment? BMC Medicine, 3(3). https://doi.org/10.1186/1741-7015-3-3

Torres, A. M., & Sanz, B. (2000). Health care provision for illegal immigrants: Should public health be concerned? Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 54, 478-479. https://doi.org/10.1136/jech.54.6.478

Ulin, P. R., Robinson, E. T., & Tolley, E. E. (2005). Qualitative methods in public health: A field guide for applied research. Jossey-Bass.

Waldron, I., Nowotarski, M., Freimer, M., Henry, J. P., Post, N., & Witten, C. (1982). Cross-cultural variation in blood pressure: A quantitative analysis of the relationships of blood pressure to cultural characteristics, salt consumption and body weight. Social Science & Medicine, 16(4), 419-430. https://doi.org/10.1016/0277-9536(82)90050-8

Weidman, H. H. (1979). Falling-out: A diagnostic and treatment problem viewed from a transcultural perspective. Social Science and Medicine, 13B(2), 95-112. https://doi.org/10.1016/0160-7987(79)90003-6

Willen, S. (2006). "Illegal" migration as a new global health challenge: Israeli perspectives and European comparisons [Unpublished master’s thesis]. Emory University. Atlanta, GA.

Willen, S., & Casteñeda, H. (2008, November). Society for Medical Anthropology “Take a stand” initiative on “Unauthorized im/migration and health” [Paper presentation]. Annual Meeting of the Critical Anthropology of Global Health (CAGH) Interest Group at the American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting, San Francisco. http://www.medanthro.net/stand/immigration/SMA_CAGH_ImmigrationAndHealth06.2009.pdf

Williams, D. R., & Neighbors, H. (2001). Racism, discrimination and hypertension: Evidence and needed research. Ethnicity and Disease, 11(4), 800-816. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11763305/

Williams, E. J. (2011). The influence of knowledge and self-efficacy on Bahamian women’s adherence to a hypertensive medication regime [Unpublished doctoral dissertation]. Barry University, North Miami, FL. http://ufdc.ufl.edu/AA00076532/00001

Zacaïr, P., & Reinhardt, C. (2010). Introduction. In P. Zacaïr (Ed.), Haiti and the Haitian diaspora in the wider Caribbean (pp. 1-10). Gainesville: University Press of Florida.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15362/ijbs.v19i1.177

Copyright (c) 2013 J. G. Mazzeo