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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege

Burka-wearing prompts the return of rickets in Birmingham

A new health awareness campaign has been launched among Muslim women by health officials in the Midlands after a rise in the number of cases of rickets. It is thought that pregnant women who regularly wear a burka are depriving themselves of exposure to sunlight, which results in Vitamin D deficiency.

Sixty-five children in Birmingham have needed hospital treatment in the past three years for rickets, a disease which was thought to have died out in Victorian times. And health bosses fear this may be the tip of the iceberg with more cases of the illness, which affects bone development, not being formally diagnosed. Now they have invested £150,000 to fight the rise of rickets among infants in inner city Birmingham.

The wearing of burkas by Muslim women is thought to have contributed to its recent resurgence. A spokesman for the Heart of Birmingham Primary Care Trust, which is heading the campaign, said: “Anecdotal evidence suggests that mothers and babies from some minority ethnic communities may be more affected. This is because women traditionally do not expose their skin to sunlight. However, Vitamin D deficiency can also be due to confinement in the home, diet, mal-absorption syndromes and liver or kidney disease. Deficiency is easily counteracted with Vitamin D supplements.

Dr Jacky Chambers, director of public health at Heart of Birmingham primary care trust, added: “Women who cover up for cultural reasons may be at higher risk of Vitamin D deficiency. In addition to taking Vitamin D supplements, we are urging mothers to help themselves to get some sunlight. They should make sure they are exposed to the sun, without burning, for a short time each day.”


Published Fri, 04 Aug 2006