The most unhealthy people in the land

Muslims originating from the Indian subcontinent are 50 per cent more likely to suf- fer ill health than white people, according to the first ever indepth investigation into the health of ethnic minorities in Britain. The main reason is poverty and poor dietary habits claims the 200-page 

Just when you were starting to think that Muslims were languishing at the foot of every social index, a new report finds them topping the charts in some- thing. Nadeem Azam reports. 

QNews September 1997 

All ethnic minority groups were found to have a much greater risk of diabetes than native white people. But the risk was found to be a staggering five times greater for Pakistanis and Bangladeshis than whites, and three times greater for Indians, African-Asians and Caribbeans. 

Another PSI report, published in June, came to the damning con- clusion that four-fifths of 

Pakistanis and Bangladeshis in Britain were living below the poverty line, and Dr Nazroo’s study acknowledges the poor health of Asian Muslims is not unrelated to their financial status. “Poor health is associated with poverty,” he concludes. “Some ethnic minority groups are among the poorest people in Britain and they also have the worst health.” 

Dr Nazroo’s argument is proven by figures which show that Indians and African-Asians, who are closest to whites in income, are as healthy as them. 

The report suggests that some health services were failing to meet the needs of ethnic minori- ties. In an indictment of the British National Health Service, Mr Nazroo argues “the quality of health care received by patients appears to be related to their eth- nic background. We need to develop more culturally sensitive services, better targeted health promotion, improved language skills for health care professionals and accessible translation facili- ties.” 

However, one Muslim com- munity leader told Q-News that Muslims must not be complacent and blame everybody but them- selves. “Most Muslims don’t care about their health. They eat far too much, for example,” says Dr Majid Katme of the Islamic Medical Association. 

“We don’t follow the prece- dents of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). He said, for example, that `a meal for two is enough for three, a meal for three is enough for four’ and ‘a believer has only one gut, an infidel has seven.’ Yet 

the people in our community, especially the elders, don’t follow these ahadith and stuff themselves until their stomachs are bursting.” 

“I have read the report and it reveals that Bangladeshi men are Britain’s biggest smokers. How can 50 per cent of them regularly smoke and then lay the blame on poverty or neglectful health authorities?” 

Dr Abdul-Karim Hussain, a general practitioner working in Bradford, West Yorkshire, agrees that Muslims must take more care of their health. He says: “Almost 90 per cent of my patients are Muslims from Pakistan and India. Genetics and poverty do play a part, but the biggest single reason for the staggering rates of heart disease, respiratory illnesses and diabetes amongst Muslims is an unhealthy diet and lifestyle. We eat far too much red meat and fatty foods. Food is cooked in an unhealthy manner – curries, for example, are made with tons of ghee and butter. And on top of that, our men and women do hardly any exercise, which causes obesity and diabetes.” 

If there is anything positive to be gleaned from the report, it is that Muslims are following their faith when it comes to remaining teetotal. ‘Whereas two out of five Hindus and Sikhs consume alco- hol, less than one in ten Muslims do. It is something to be celebrat- ed when one considers the finding of another report earlier this year which revealed that 60% of crimes in Britain are committed by people who have drunk alco- hol. 

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