Cultural Barriers in Health Care Deliver to Muslim Women
General Information On Islam
Cultural Barriers in Health It is a monotheistic religion founded upon
Care Delivery to the Muslim Abrahamic tradition
Islam is the world’s 2nd largest religion
Women of the USA It is the fastest growing religion in the
world and the United States
Sultana A. Salam, MD Arabs represent only 12% of the world’s
McGuire VA Medical Center Muslim population
MCV/VCU Dept. of Psychiatry The highest Population of Muslims reside
Islam in America Survey Results
There are approximately 6 million Muslims Thirty Muslim women participated in a
in the United States today short survey regarding cultural barriers to
Asian-American women comprise 3.7% of
Asian- provision of their own health care.
the US population (2000) equaling 5.3 All of the women came from diverse
million women. backgrounds including: Afghanistan,
The term denoting Muslim women in Pakistan, Palestine, Morocco, South Africa,
Islam is “Muslimas”.
Muslimas” Algeria, Egypt, and Bosnia
The women were between ages 17-5117-
Culture versus Religion Cultural Incorporation
In most Muslim countries, cultural Cultural traditions have been incorporated into
traditions have taken precedence over Islamic teachings, coloring and contaminating
Islamic teachings. the original messages.
For Example: 65% of respondents agreed and
According to the survey, over 50% of strongly agreed that women of their
respondents disagreed and strongly culture/country require male permission to
disagreed with the statement: “In my attend medical appointments.
culture, women’s health and well-being
women’ well- Additionally, 40% admitted not being able to travel
are considered important.”
important.” without a male escort due to cultural issues.
Modesty in Islam The #1 Worry or Concern
Women wear “hijab” (commonly known as
hijab” According to the survey, the foremost
a headscarf) for a number of reasons: concern women have when receiving
To be recognized as Muslims medical treatment was overexposure.
To prevent sexual harassment and Muslim women do not want their bodies
chastisement by men to be overexposed for a long period of
To encourage development of the inner time.
self and not be depicted as a sexual object
Taboos Who Are These Women?
When respondents were asked what they Lumping all Muslim women into one
considered to be inappropriate concerning category is a misguided and erroneous
their medical treatment, the number one perception.
response was: OBGYN visits and bodily Muslim women come from different
exposure to a male physician/nurse. countries with different cultural trends,
Discussing sexual history languages, and educational backgrounds.
Sterility can lead to rejection and divorce
How Muslim Women Perceive
Many Muslim women are not aware of According to the survey, research
their Islamic rights or what is permissive publications, and personal experience,
regardless of their educational most Muslimas view illness as:
background. #1 Response: Random
For example: Forced marriages, female occurrence/”everybody gets sick”
circumcision, dowry, marriage following #2 Response: Negligience
divorce or death of spouse, or attending #3 Response: Spiritual trial
the masjid (“mosque”) for prayer.
The Evil Eye
Reasons Muslimas Avoid Medical
Initial Remedies Taken
Muslimas respond to illness or medical The following factors deter women from seeking
conditions in the following ways: medical treatment:
1) Fear of exposure of “sensitive” body parts
1) Home remedies/commonly accepted
2) Lack of transportation
3) Language barriers
4) Lack of income/insurance
3) Spiritual healers/religious symbols
5) Lack of male escort (cultural
4) Conventional methods/Doctor visits issue)/inconvenience to family members
6) Fear of being criticized/ridiculed
The Do’s and Don’ts Additional Helpful Hints
Do ask if they would like Don’t confuse them with too
to be evaluated in
many treatment options. (The Muslimas who fall ill are exempt from
authority of a physician is
private. seldom challenged.) fasting in the holy month of Ramadan.
Determine provision of Avoid communicating a grave
diagnosis as it is viewed as
preoperative instructions cruel and deprives the client of
on an individual basis. hope. Muslimas are exempt from praying and
Do treat pain. Do not frighten them about
post- ablution when they are ill/injured.
Do pay attention to (Many Muslims attribute
mental illness which may adverse outcomes to God’s
present as somatization.
somatization. Don’t overexamine: only
Do offer same-sex health
same- examine that which is Muslimas do not take any product that is
necessary and explain why.
care providers. made from pork or alcohol.
Empathy and Respect For More Information…
1. Islamic Medical Association of North America. www.imana.org
Many Muslimas living in the United States are
immigrants from war-stricken countries and may be
war- 2. Aulwes, Jennifer. “Health Care and Muslim Women”. Planned Parenthood
suffering from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and other Global Partners Aug. 2004. www.plannedparenthood.org.
mental illnesses. 3. Purnell, Larry. “People of Arab Heritage.quot; Guide to Culturally Competent
Avoid assumptions that Muslimas with head-coverings
head- Health Care. F. A. Davis Company: Philadelphia, 2005. 62-74.
and other Islamic attire are ignorant.
Many Muslimas with professional degrees and higher 4. United States Department of Health and Human Services.
education wear the “hijab”.
Be aware that there is a large population of Muslimas 5. Office on Women’s Health. http://www.womenshealth.gov/owh/.
Women’ Health. http://www.womenshealth.gov/owh/.
who wear the “hijab” and were born and raised in the
US. These women are fully aware of common practices 6. Kemp, Charles. “Refugee Women”. Refugees. 2006. Baylor University. 2
Feb. 2007. http://www3.baylor.edu/~Charles_Kemp/refugee_women.htm.
and laws pertaining to healthcare.
7. Dr. Memoona Hasnain, Director of Research, Department of Family
Medicine, UIC College of Medicine. firstname.lastname@example.org.