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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Columbia: Professor Reports on Islamophobia as a Public Health Crisis

Islamophobia is a looming public health crisis costing countless numbers of lives and harming millions more, reports Dr. Goleen Samari, assistant professor of population and family health, in The Hill.  U.S. hate crimes have increased since 2015, and rose 17 percent in 2017, the largest spike since 2001. Numbers are likely higher as there is also massive under-reporting by those who fear repercussions.

“Decades of research demonstrate links among racism, mental health issues, violence, and stress-related chronic conditions,” says Dr. Samari. “Research has proven that hateful ideology causes increased stress, unequal access to healthcare, and strained relationships.”

The first step is recognizing that Islamophobia is a chronic disease, normalized by mainstream politicians, the media, and policymakers, that limits the wellbeing of those stigmatized and threatens overall population health. Dr. Samari’s research shows that Muslim women and older people, may face double jeopardy and have worse health outcomes. Those experiencing discrimination are less likely to seek care. “In my work, I found a consistent trend that women who wear the veil face greater discrimination in healthcare settings.” One study found that women who reported religious discrimination were less likely to have had a mammogram in the last two years. “If the people who are supposed to care for you subject you to prejudice that is harming your health, it is not surprising you would forego preventive care.”

Islamophobia should be a critical concern to those in healthcare, writes Dr. Samari. Public health practitioners need to take a preventative approach and address what creates ideologies that propagate hate and crimes, threaten people’s health, and cause premature mortality.