Religious Values and Healthcare Accommodations

Whether African American, Arab American or South Asian American, the 7 million Americans who are Muslims share a religious tradition that informs their cultural values around health. Little is known, however, about the health care inequities they experience.

In order to better understand Muslim patient values and improve the quality of care they receive, investigators conducted community-based participatory research in metropolitan Detroit, which long has had a large Muslin population. They held 13 focus groups with adults at seven mosques. The focus groups lasted 1.5 hours, with separate sessions for men and women, and included both English-speakers and Arabic-speakers. Participants were asked what changes they would make in the health care setting to improve the health care experience of Muslims.

Over all, the participants stressed the importance of provider cultural competency to reduce barriers to care and engender patient trust. They suggested three specific accommodations:

  • Provide gender-concordant care that addresses the importance of modesty, especially in cross-gender interactions and in the design of patient gowns.
  • Serve halal food that adheres to Islamic dietary regulations.
  • Offer a neutral space (devoid of iconography) for prayer, make prayer rugs available for use in patient rooms and mark the direction toward Mecca.

The authors state that this study "informs efforts to deliver high-quality health care to American Muslims in several ways. Understanding the values underlying these requests for healthcare improvement and the challenges stemming from lack of accommodations will inform efforts at improving cultural competence and providing culturally sensitive healthcare.