Original Research

Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 27, Issue 6, pp 708-715

First online:

Religious Values and Healthcare Accommodations: Voices from the American Muslim Community

  • Aasim I. PadelaAffiliated withSections of General Internal Medicine & Emergency Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of ChicagoProgram on Medicine and Religion, University of Chicago Email author 
  • , Katie GunterAffiliated withRobert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars Program, University of Michigan
  • , Amal KillawiAffiliated withRobert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars Program, University of Michigan
  • , Michele HeislerAffiliated withRobert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars Program, University of MichiganVeterans Affairs Center for Clinical Management Research, VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System

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Minority populations receive a lower quality healthcare in part due to the inadequate assessment of, and cultural adaptations to meet, their culturally informed healthcare needs. The seven million American Muslims, while ethnically and racially diverse, share religiously informed healthcare values that influence their expectations of healthcare. There is limited empirical research on this community’s preferences for cultural modifications in healthcare delivery.


Identify healthcare accommodations requested by American Muslims.


Using community-based participatory research (CBPR) methods, we partnered with four community organizations in the Greater Detroit area to design and conduct thirteen focus groups at area mosques serving African American, Arab American, and South Asian American Muslims. Qualitative content analysis utilized a framework team-based approach.


Participants reported stigmatization within the healthcare system and voiced the need for culturally competent healthcare providers. In addition, they identified three key healthcare accommodations to address Muslim sensitivities: the provision of (1) gender-concordant care, (2) halal food and (3) a neutral prayer space. Gender concordance was requested based on Islamic conceptions of modesty and privacy. Halal food was deemed to be health-promoting and therefore integral to the healing process. Lastly, a neutral prayer space was requested to ensure security and privacy during worship.


This study informs efforts to deliver high-quality healthcare to American Muslims in several ways. We note three specific healthcare accommodations requested by this community and the religious values underlying these requests. Healthcare systems can further cultural sensitivity, engender trust, and improve the healthcare experiences of American Muslims by understanding and then attempting to accommodate these values as much as possible.


cultural modifications Islam minority health healthcare delivery