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Dealing With Diabetes: The Maslaha Project

Tower Hamlet Primary Trust & The Maslaha Project

November 18, 2008

Promoting health to religious communities with culturally sensitive resources and tools

The Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities in the UK has a disproportionately high level of diabetes. Tower Hamlets, an East End Borough of London, has one of the largest Bangladeshi communities in the UK. It also has the largest Muslim population of any local authority in England or Wales.

The Tower Hamlet Primary Trust (the local government authority) has developed a health pilot that draws on religious guidance to prompt the pre-emptive management of diabetes among this high risk group. The pilot has been launched in partnership with the Maslaha project, a new organisation aimed at helping Muslims deal with the challenges of living and integrating in western society. Maslaha which translates from Arabic as “for the common good” is built around an interactive website that asks “What is Diabetes?”, under that larger call to action, Maslaha: Supporting Muslims Facing the Dilemmas of Everyday Life.

In addition to the website Maslaha has produced films in both Sylheti and English that give advice from a religious as well as medical perspective on how to tackle diabetes.

Along with clear explanations of what diabetes is and how to recognize it, the site offers information on women and men only exercise classes and diabetes clinics in the area. There is also a recipe section where traditional dishes such as spiced lamb with pita, chicken curry and spicy chick peas with spinach and potatoes are all modified to better reflect the dietary needs of those with diabetes.

The project also specifically addresses issues that might have previously been overlooked by the mainstream medical community but were nevertheless, preventing members of the Muslim community from proactively taking the steps to manage their diabetes. For instance, the site has Islamic scholars advise on the question of whether swimming classes for women in the community also require lifeguards that are Muslim as well as specific advice on how to manage diabetes during the month of Ramadan (when Muslims traditionally fast).

It is hoped that Maslaha’s health strand will also contribute towards providing a greater understanding amongst health care workers about how Islam can touch on all aspects of a Muslims patients life and how they can use this knowledge to gain the confidence of their local Muslim community.

In partnership with Tower Hamlets Primary Care Trust, Maslaha, has provided medical and Islamic information about how to lead a healthier life if you have diabetes. Maslaha is a new organisation established by the Young Foundation; building on the success of the Diabetes in Towers Hamlet pilot, a major new Maslaha Website is being developed with other public service practitioners in education, youth work and adoption.

Update: The revamped website is available here.

This Good Idea was identified by the Open Society Foundations’ At Home in Europe project as a good practice promoting inclusion, social cohesion and nondiscrimination. For more on this practice and the At Home in Europe project, read Living Together: Projects Promoting Inclusion in 11 EU Cities (OSF, 2011)

Making it Work for You:

  • Access to health services are complex. Language barriers may mask larger issues such as adult literacy or privacy needs. Explore alternate communication channels such as video to cut across language and literacy barriers.
  • When planning a public health campaign or any public service campaign, consider the special needs of your target audience and how those needs can be met by consulting with community leaders.
  • Technology can provide an autonomous and safe space for some immigrants to learn about needed services.
  • Find out what religious or cultural organisations in your community can help you develop culturally appropriate information resources to increase your audience uptake.


For this Good Idea contact:

Raheel Mohammed, Maslaha
London, England,
0208 223 8836
raheel@maslaha.org
http://www.maslaha.org/uk


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