Using Islamic religious settings for health promotion

Childhood obesity is one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century. The NHS spends £6 billion per year on overweight and obesity related conditions, and £10 billion on diabetes. In Bradford, 40% of children of South Asian origin are overweight or obese aged 10-11 years, compared to 32% in White British children. Research has shown that their diets are higher in sugar and fat, and they spend less time being active and more time being sedentary. Born in Bradford Study found that 91% of Muslim South Asian children attend madrassa (supplementary schools for Islamic learning)  after school for a couple of hours. We view the presence of children in Islamic religious settings as a window of opportunity to encourage healthy behaviours for after-school health promotion interventions targeting high risk groups. Islamic religious settings can be mosque, madrassa, women’s circles to study Islam, Muslim sports and charity organisations. BiB started working on exploring how to use Islamic religious settings for health promotion in 2017.

Fowling are the projects at Born in Bradford Study exploring more for this work stream.

  • Using Islamic Religious Settings to prevent obesity among South Asian children living in the UK (funded by NIHR, 2017-2018)

By conducting a scoping review and systematic mapping, we found that all over the UK, Islamic religious settings are already doing impressive work on delivering physical activity and promoting healthy dietary habits on voluntarily basis. We concluded that Islamic religious setting may be useful places to implement obesity prevention interventions and their potential can be harnessed. We conducted a Delphi Consensus to know which obesity prevention behaviours are acceptable to be delivered by parents of children attending madrassa, Islamic leaders, and staff working in Islamic religious settings. We learned all obesity prevention behaviours recommended by health experts were acceptable and are in accordance with Islamic teachings. We conducted indepth interviews and focus group discussions with Islamic leaders and parents to know in details how to deliver an obesity prevention intervention using Islamic religious settings.

  • Trailblazer Childhood Obesity Prevention Programme (funded by Local Government Associations, 2019-2022)

Born in Bradford Study, Bradford Council, and Bradford Council for Mosques formed a unique partnership to explore the opportunities for working with Islamic Religious Settings, in particular with madrassas to tackle childhood obesity by supporting healthy behaviours and influencing positive social/structural behaviour change for better health outcomes in the local environment. We are co-producing a toolkit with Islamic religious settings which combines NHS/PHE guidelines on obesity prevention initiatives with Islamic teachings on the same. We have recruited a Community Engagement Manager to train people affiliated with these settings so that they can deliver obesity prevention intervention to children and families.

  • Join Us: Move. Play. (JU:MP) – (funded by Sports England, 2019-2021)

Bradford is one of 12 Local Delivery Pilots across the country funded by Sport England aiming to better understand what helps people to be active in their communities. Realising the potential of Islamic religious settings to deliver physical activities for children and young people, JU:MP has started funding projects for physical activities using these settings to target high risk groups, i.e. predominantly children and young people from ethnic minorities living in deprivation.

Our message for the children, Islamic leaders and parents of children attending madrassa is;

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