Ethnic-minority groups account for about 5 per cent of the population of Britain, largely concentrated in London, the West Midlands, the East Midlands, West and South Yorkshire and the North West. This sub-group can be broadly classified into those of Asian and Afro-Caribbean origin.
The Asian group mainly comprises people of Indian, Pakistani or Bangladeshi origin, concentrated around Bradford, Birmingham, Southall, Tower Hamlets and Leicester.
However, there is vast heterogeneity, based on religion. In this book, the editors, Gatrad, a GP, and Sheikh, a consultant paediatrician, focus on the needs of Muslim Asians .
They argue that the religion of British Muslims is so interwoven with their daily activities, it influences the way they react to health problems. Aimed at healthcare professionals, the book addresses common misunderstandings and bridges cultural gaps.
It is divided into three sections.
The first provides an overview of Islam and Muslims. It also describes their demographic and socio-economic position in Britain and puts health and disease in an Islamic framework.
The second section focuses on 'the Muslim patient', explaining rituals and customs, some in great detail. The chapter 'Birth customs: meaning and significance', describes the difficulties of obtaining circumcision on the NHS. It applauds the initiative of Sandwell health authority, which offers the operation free to boys under two. One chapter covers the family, explaining gender, segregation and role demarcation.
Another on fasting patients includes useful case histories.
The third section contains a glossary and a helpful guide to a range of websites providing information about Islam, medicine and health. Some of these, along with a list of organisations, could usefully be passed on to patients.
The book is easy to read and provides an understanding of Muslims and their religion. The aim of the editors was to enable healthcare professionals to see issues as Muslim patients do. They have achieved this.
Inequalities and ethnicity are prominent issues on current health and government agendas.
Hopefully, rewards for their efforts will be seen in better care for Muslim patients and additionally, a stimulation of interest for a greater understanding of other minority groups in Britain.
Dr Shalini Pooransingh Specialist registrar in public health medicine.
Dr Sam Ramaiah Director of public health medicine Walsall health authority.