Religious Diversity in Health Care Heads to Williamsburg

Last Thursday, Tanenbaum’s Religious Diversity in Health Care team presented at the Greater Brooklyn Health Coalition’s general membership meeting in Williamsburg. With Williamsburg’s religiously and culturally diverse population, our presentation “Religio-Cultural Competence in Patient Care,” complimented the GBHC’s initiative of learning about the unique health needs of residents of Williamsburg. 

The audience raised some very interesting questions during the Q & A session following our presentation. One GBHC member asked us how we recommended balancing the economic constraints of a hospital with accommodating the spiritual needs of patients. Mark, our Director of Programs, replied that it is important not to get bogged down in the mentality of doing nothing until we can do everything – the key is to start somewhere and continue building from there. 
 
Another highlight of the event was Dr. Edward Fishkin’s presentation. Dr. Fishkin is the Medical Director for the Woodhull Medical Center in Williamsburg, and he discussed health disparities – specifically relating to children diagnosed with asthma. We found that some of the themes of his presentation connected with our own findings and mission.
 
Dr. Fishkin spoke about the high rate of readmissions to hospitals due to confusion surrounding prescription instructions or exactly how to use an inhaler. We are often quick to blame the patient in these circumstances but Dr. Fishkin reminded the audience that patients are often simply afraid, or even too embarrassed to ask, for clarification. Tanenbaum sees a very similar dilemma as it relates to religion. Patients are often reluctant to bring up religious beliefs and practices that impact their care, fearing judgment or disapproval. One of our goals at Tanenbaum is to train doctors to ask open ended questions that give patients the opportunity to discuss any religious concerns they may have in the context of their care. 
 
Our trip to Williamsburg was a unique opportunity to continue to reach out to new communities and members of the health care profession. We look forward to a continued partnership with the GBHC, increasing and sharing our knowledge on religious diversity with its member communities.