Despite the importance of faith and cultural background in Arab immigrants’ lives, little is known about their role in preventing cardiovascular diseases. To understand the challenges among Arab immigrants related to acculturation and religiosity in adopting healthy lifestyle behaviours and managing stress, we conducted three face-to-face focus groups with 17 Arab health promoters who were members of the Canadian Arab Health Coalition. Averaging 80 minutes in length, the focus groups were conducted in Ottawa, Canada, in February and March 2018. Data were analyzed with an inductive thematic analysis approach; we identified four themes: “Culture first!”: dominant influence of home country culture; “Religiosity alone does not make you healthy!”: limited religious influence; “It is not easy!”: difficulties adapting to the Canadian lifestyle; and “We are not young!”: generational differences in adopting a healthy lifestyle. In brief, we found that some religious or cultural beliefs may be barriers to practicing physical activity, especially for women and older people. These barriers may be augmented with acculturative stress. Religiosity may also play an important indirect role in managing stress through socialization, family support, and the adoption of coping strategies. Younger people in Arabic communities appear to be more flexible in dealing with these religious/cultural issues.


Arab immigrants, culture, focus group, health promotion, lifestyle behaviours, religiosity

Author Bio(s)

Dr. Hussein Baharoon is a physiotherapist by training who has a Ph.D. in rehabilitation sciences from the University of Ottawa. His thesis project focuses on religious coping and acculturation in managing stress and lifestyle change behaviours after cardiac events among Arab individuals. He had begun accomplishing global health issues in physiotherapy when he worked with Handicap International Belgium in Yemen between 2002 and 2005 to install a rehabilitation center and workshop of orthopedic devices. Afterward, he worked for two years in different projects funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to support Yemen’s healthcare sector. A few years later, he completed his professional master’s in rehabilitation practices in 2012 at Université de Sherbrooke. His master dissertation focused on cultural barriers when practicing physiotherapy with Muslim individuals in Quebec. In general, he is interested in evaluating the impact of cultural diversity on rehabilitation programs, rehabilitation for ageing people from ethnic minorities, rehabilitation and disability in developing countries, and religiosity, spirituality, and rehabilitation outcomes. As well, Hussein is interested in developing local and international communities. Please direct correspondence to hbaha034@uottawa.ca

Dr. Judy King is a physiotherapist and an associate professor in the physiotherapy program. Her patient-centred research focus is in patient education, specifically as it relates to chronic disease management, particularly for especially people living with chronic cardiac and respiratory conditions. Fields of study include health literacy, patient safety, transformative learning, and mentorship. She has received both provincial and national awards for her teaching and mentoring of students and new health professionals. Educating her future professional colleagues, Professor King believes it is important to be a role model and mentor for her students; therefore, she volunteers on several provincial, national, and international committees, including Chairing the Research and Fellowship Committee of the Ontario Respiratory Care Society (ORCS). She is a founding executive committee member of the International Confederation of Cardiorespiratory Physical Therapists (ICCrPT) of the World Confederation of Physical Therapy (WCPT). As well as her research, teaching, and service activities, she maintains a clinical position working at The Ottawa Hospital in the Intensive Care Unit to have an update to date understanding of the present health care system.


The authors thank members of the Canadian Arabic Health Coalition in Ottawa for their participation.

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