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08.05.2017 | Original Paper | Ausgabe 6/2017

Journal of Religion and Health 6/2017

Islamic Religious Leaders in Israel as Social Agents for Change on Health-Related Issues

Journal of Religion and Health > Ausgabe 6/2017
Michal Cohen-Dar, Samira Obeid


Islamic religious leaders (IRLs) have the potential to influence health education, health promotion, and positive health outcomes among their own communities. This study aims to examine the role and effectiveness of Arab Muslim religious leaders, in Israel, as social agents for change on health-related issues, focusing on reduction in infant mortality, prematurity, and congenital malformations attributed to consanguineous marriage. A self-administrated questionnaire was distributed to 127 IRLs, in 2012, to gain insights into practice, attitudes, and perceptions of IRLs toward their role as social agents for change on health-related issues. The results indicate that two-thirds (58%) of the surveyed IRLs have provided frequent advice on issues related to preventing infant mortality, congenital malformation, and prematurity over the past two years. Most IRLs indicated that they have keen interest in their communities’ health matters (97%) and regard dealing with them as part of their job (85%). The study identified three enabling factors that had significant influence on the IRLs’ attitude. These influences are: awareness and knowledge of the health issues, the perception that these issues and their impact on the community are part of their responsibility, and the empowerment they felt through the participation in the Ministry of Health (Northern Region Health Office) educational seminar series, in the year 2000. The main conclusion from this study indicates that IRLs are effective social agents for change and that the educational interventions can be a useful and effective strategy to encourage IRLs to cooperate with health providers and promote public health among their own communities.

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