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Open Access Research article

The role of religious leaders and faith organisations in haemoglobinopathies: a review

Thelma K Toni-Uebari1 and Baba PD Inusa2*

Author Affiliations

1 Paediatrics Department, West Middlesex University Hospital, Isleworth, Middlesex, UK

2 Paediatrics Department, Evelina Children's Hospital, Guys and St Thomas Hospital NHS Trust, London, UK

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BMC Blood Disorders 2009, 9:6  doi:10.1186/1471-2326-9-6

Published: 15 August 2009

Abstract

Background

Sickle cell disease (SCD) is now the most common genetic condition in the world including the UK with an estimate of over 12,500 affected people and over 300 new births per year. Blood transfusion therapy plays a very important role as a disease-modifying strategy in severe SCD e.g. primary and secondary stroke prevention and other acute life-threatening complications such as acute chest infections and acute multi-organ failure. Blood transfusion, however, carries a number of risks including alloimmunisation. There is the need to increase the level of awareness and education about SCD and also to increase blood donation drive among affected communities. These communities are mostly ethnic minority populations who are recognised to have poor access to health care services. Due to the strong impact of religion on these populations, faith organisations may provide potential access for health promotion and interventions.

Methods

A literature search was conducted to find studies published between 1990–2008 aimed at examining the influence of religious leaders and faith organisations in health, with particular reference to haemoglobinopathies.

Results

Eleven studies were reviewed covering a variety of health interventions. The findings suggest that involvement of religious leaders and faith organisations in health related interventions improved the level of acceptance, participation and positive health outcomes within the faith communities.

Conclusion

Religious leaders and faith organisations have the potential to influence health education, health promotion and positive health outcomes amongst members of their faith community. They also provide potential access to at-risk populations for increasing awareness about SCD, encouraging health service utilization and ethnic blood donor drives.