Assessing Perceptions and Prevalence of Mental Health Disorders Among Haitian Migrant Workers in San Francisco de Macorís, Dominican Republic

Monday, July 11, 2011

Hunter Keys, BS
School of Nursing, Emory University, Atlanta, GA

Learning Objective 1: The learner will be able to cite three factors that adversely impact the health of migrant Haitians in the Dominican Republic.

Learning Objective 2: The learner will be able to identify two similarities and differences between mental health experiences of non-migrant Haitians and migrant Haitians in the Dominican Republic.


Mental health disorders contribute significantly to the global burden of disease. While evidence-based interventions are available to reduce mental health problems, the needs of some populations, particularly migrant workers, remain largely unknown. Often marginalized within an already resource-limited setting, migrants in the developing world may endure a heavier mental health burden than their non-migrant counterparts who remain in their home country, thereby jeopardizing their economic and social wellbeing.

For decades, Haitian migrants have comprised a significant portion of the Dominican labor force. Migrant Haitians in the Dominican Republic face a wide discrepancy in nearly every quality of life indicator, from access to healthcare to legal protection. While the poor health outcomes of migrant Haitians have been documented, little is known about their mental health.

This project will assess the prevalence and examine the experience of mental health disorders among Haitian migrants by utilizing adapted mental illness screening tools and in-depth interviews within Haitian communites of San Francisco de Macorís. This study will provide a framework for improved healthcare delivery to this underserved population.


The project will be completed in March-April, 2011. The researcher will utilize culturally adapted mental illness screening tools to assess for prevalence of depression, anxiety, functional impairment, and distress within migrant Haitian communities of San Francisco de Macoris. Survey responses to the screening tools will be analyzed using SAS. Twenty-five to thirty semi-structured interviews will be conducted with key informants from migrant Haitian communities and Dominican healthcare settings.


Results for each screener will be compared to prevalence rates of mental distress among non-migrant Haitians. Interview data will provide a richer understanding of the local perception and experience of mental illness of migrant Haitians.


The project’s conclusions will contribute to a better understanding of a marginalized population whose needs are increasingly met by the local healthcare system.