Public health and medical professionals to get lesson on religion

    Philadelphia health-care providers and public health officials are getting a lesson on religion at a workshop Friday.That’s right, religion.

    How do Seventh-day Adventists feel about vaccines? Can you talk about HIV prevention to a group of devout Muslim men and women?

    Philadelphia is home to many different faiths and beliefs can play a big role in people’s medical decisions and their interactions in doctor’s offices.

    The workshop organized by Drexe University’s School of Public Health and the Interfaith Center of Philadelphia will encourage making religion part of routine conversations with patients.

    Drexel professor Jennifer Kolker helped organize the workshop.

    “So just like we ask somebody about their marital status, or we ask about sexual activity, or we ask about employment,” explained Kolker, “being able to ask questions about whether or not they are member of a faith, how adherent to a faith are and are there things about their faith that a clinician might need to know in treating them.”

    Drexel University’s Rabbi Nancy Epstein says knowing more about patients’ religious beliefs can help avoid uncomfortable situations – for example realizing too late that a patient’s religion forbids having a doctor of the opposite sex:

    “When they come into a health-care setting it would be a real violation of how they adhere to their faith tradition to be examined by someone of a different gender.”

    Epstein says religion is also very important in public health, because understanding the faiths and beliefs of residents makes for more effective prevention messages.

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