Using Islamic Religious Settings to prevent childhood obesity among South Asian children in the UK

The research project ‘Using Islamic Religious Settings to prevent childhood obesity among South Asian Children in the UK’ aims at exploring the possibilities and modalities of obesity prevention intervention through Islamic Religious Settings (IRS) like mosque, madrassa, women circles to study Islam, Muslim charity organisations, and mosque-based or mosque-originated sports or physical activity group. The childhood obesity rates among children of South Asian origin are significantly higher than the national average. Majority of children of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin are of Islamic faith. IRS can be a good place to engage with Muslim parents, families and community leaders. The purpose of involving IRS is to ensure that the voices of Muslim community, Islamic leaders and parents are incorporated in designing and execution of an obesity prevention intervention.


This project is funded by National Institute of Health Research. Four methodologically different but thematically similar research activities are undertaking completion to explore the modalities of interventions through IRS.  1) Scoping review and systematic mapping: to find out the published research about existing health intervention implementation models through IRS. The team has collected unpublished information about health promotion activities through the IRS from localities in the UK where Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin population is more than 10% by doing a systematic mapping.  2) Assessing the reach of IRS through completion of school based questionnaire: This research activity helped determining the percentage of Muslim South Asian children attending mosque or a madrassa after school. 92% of Muslim children reported that they attend mosque or madrassa after school. 3) Modified RAND consensus method: A panel of Muslim community members in Bradford evaluated the acceptability, feasibility, receptivity and compatibility of 32 obesity prevention behaviours and 26 physical activities that were identified by national level obesity experts. The Muslim community panel agreed on encouraging most of the obesity prevention behaviours and physical activities through IRS. 4) Assessing the acceptability, receptively and capacity of IRS to deliver obesity prevention intervention: The research team is conducting indepth interviews and focus group discussions with parents, Islamic leaders and IRS volunteers in Bradford and Birmingham. The purpose is to qualitatively find out how Muslim community view and respond to an obesity prevention intervention through IRS.

The higher rates of obesity among South Asian Muslim children in the UK may be due to the embodiment of factors like health, migration, ethnicity, and deprivation. Thinking beyond traditional ways of tackling childhood obesity, Islamic Religious Settings offer an opportunity to address this health challenge in culturally sensitive ways.

Our message for the Muslim community leaders, religious scholars and parents is;

Maintaining a healthy body is the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Would you like to follow it?