Friday, November 25, 2011

Meeting the Healthcare Needs of American Muslims

Here is an excerpt from a recent report by the Insitute for Social Policy and Understanding: Meeting the Healthcare Needs of American Muslims.  The full report can be accessed from our website at

...our participants noted that these accommodations could be provided rather easily and required some flexibility and strategic planning, “Why don’t we go the extra mile with...Muslims? ...Their needs are very tiny...What’s the big deal...” In addition, the results of doing so will lead to improved healthcare experiences for both parties. These patient perspectives suggest the need for health systems to utilize cultural competency initiatives and train staff in order to improve interpersonal interactions, thereby enhancing cultural sensitivity and contributing to positive changes in the overall health system culture.
Gender-Concordant Care

Participants requested gender-concordant care based upon Islamic conceptions of modesty and privacy.38 Some of them further described how the lack of female personnel may play a role in delaying or avoiding healthcare services, “Yeah. I would not even walk into a clinic that I didn’t have a choice of the gender.” Gender-concordant care was also discussed in relation to helping patients maintain a secure and private space, such as a hospital room, as well as protecting the body’s personal space. In the event that such care was unavailable, participants made some further recommendations, such as more modest hospitals gowns and signs on the doors that requested providers to knock and wait for permission to enter.
Halal Food

The provision of halal (Islamically slaughtered) food was also identified as an important healthcare accommodation. Some patients requested it for health reasons, and many identified food in general as a priority area in which healthcare providers could take the initiative. One participant stated, “I would also think that (the) hospital needs to take the initiative to ask every patient, do you have any dietary restrictions or even preferences. Because some people again, not being a very good advocate for themselves aren’t going to ask and they’re just going to assume…that they get what they get.” This quote speaks to a common theme in our focus groups: patients feel that they are outsiders and thus experience a further degree of stigmatization when asking for or explaining their need for certain accommodations.

Prayer Space

Participants identified prayer space as an important healthcare accommodation due to prayer’s role in healing and as a ritual five-time daily obligation. Participants described the challenges they had faced and suggested that a religiously neutral space would be welcomed. Some hospitalized participants mentioned being interrupted while praying and experiencing discomfort. One participant told of her effort to find a suitable place, “I had knee surgery so couldn’t go anywhere, and I was very worried about husband was with me and put me in a wheelchair and wheeled me to the bathroom, I (supplicated) and I came back and prayed.” Another participant described an uncomfortable experience, “So we were praying but…nurses and…security had come and asked if everything was ok…Doctors were you know, hesitant to come back in the room and…everybody came by after that and kind of looked in the door….we just praying how we pray.”

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