When Culture or Religion Becomes a Barrier to Health Care

By Heard, Sarah Pearl | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), July 26, 2016 | Go to article overview

When Culture or Religion Becomes a Barrier to Health Care


Heard, Sarah Pearl, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


In many cultures, especially Islam, modesty is a virtue. But can it also be a detriment to women's health?

This past spring, Duquesne University associate nursing professor Khlood Salman was named a Fulbright Scholar to study just that. It was the death of a Muslim friend from breast cancer (among other reasons) that motivated her to focus on the impact of culture and religion on breast cancer prevention among Muslim women.

This will be Duquesne University School of Nursing's first Fulbright Scholar. The program is a merit-based grant for international educational exchange that is given to students, professors and scholars to promote cultural understanding. Ms. Salman, who has a Ph.D. in epidemiology, is excited to have the opportunity and honor to pursue her passion for women's health.

Ms. Salman, a native of Iraq and a Muslim, combines her cultural expertise with her extensive public health work. Her research is prestigious and timely. In 2012 she published "Religious Violence as a Public Health Disease From an Epidemiological Perspective" as a chapter in the book "Can Muslims and Christians Resolve Their Religious and Social Conflicts: Cases From Africa and the United States."

It is not only refugee women or victims of violence who are likely to neglect their health. Across education and class levels, most women prioritize the health of their family over themselves. Ms. Salman has observed this repeatedly in her 25 years of health care experience. This behavior makes women dangerously susceptible to preventable diseases, she said.

"In Middle Eastern culture, women are the basic column or center of the family. The strength of women is judged by how well they are doing their responsibilities. If it is lacking it will affect how women and everyone sees her," Ms. Salman says.

The added pressure of a notably conservative culture and expectations of modesty can create barriers. …

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