In 2015, there were 3.3 million Muslims living in the United States, comprising about one percent of the total U.S. population according to the Pew Research Center. In fact, the number of Muslim citizens is expected to double by 2050 they added. As the Muslim-American population grows, they continually face issues within the American healthcare system.

Muslim women, more specifically, are facing tougher challenges than most. A study completed by the Department of Family Medicine, College of Medicine, University of Illinois at Chicago found that 93.8 percent of Muslim women reported that their healthcare provider did not understand their cultural or religious needs.

The first step is recognizing the needs of their population. Women of the Muslim faith are very mindful of their cultural traditions and are extremely modest when it comes to interaction between the sexes. This can become problematic during medical procedures where a patient must expose parts of the body.

For women of the Muslim faith, keeping their body covered is crucial when they are in the presence of non-mahram males. Non-mahram males are men whom a woman cannot marry at any point in their lifetime. This includes one’s immediate family: father, brother or son.

It is not allowed for people who are non-mahram adults of the opposite sex to in a room alone together. Due to these beliefs, a challenge is created in healthcare when a female patient is alone with a male physician.

In addition to this challenge, when it comes to caring for Muslim women other challenges might arise.   Some of these said challenges include: an overall lack of understanding as it relates to religious beliefs, language barriers, patient suspicion of the healthcare system, and an overall confusion with the diagnosis or treatment process.

Healthcare professionals need to be conscious of Muslim traditions and beliefs. Including being empathetic and willing to work with patients who might need a different physician or chaperone in a room. One step all healthcare providers can do, is ask patients if there is anything they can do to make them feel more comfortable at the start of their consultation.

For healthcare providers to combat these challenges it is critical to provide education to all staff regarding the religious and cultural beliefs of Muslim patients, train staff on how to create a strong patient-provider relationship, develop a language access plan that can address communication barriers, and educate all patients of differing cultures about preventative healthcare.

If these challenges seem all too real to your organization, or you simply just do not know where to start on your path, we can help. Through a carefully customized approach to training and consulting, we help our clients implement the programming essential to improving care.

When language access needs to be addressed, we not only help your organization develop a language access plan, but deliver best-in class interpreting and translating to meet your everyday needs.

Navigating the complex world of healthcare is challenging, and with more diverse communities growing every day, the challenges will only increase. Finding the perfect partner to help you on your journey can make all the difference.