Health Brands That Are Taking a Stance on the Muslim Ban

Any company that prioritizes neutrality over using its platform to speak out against the ban is endorsing oppression.

by Diana Spechler
Feb 1 2017, 8:37pm

Image: NurPhoto / Getty Images

Some of the statements spilling from CEOs' mouths denouncing Trump's Muslim ban have been encouraging. Others have been a little "too safe" for my taste. But since Trump seems intent on decimating our country's wellness, I wondered how health-related companies were reacting. Some, I learned, are not reacting; their Twitter feeds from the past week are clogged with inspirational running tips and kale recipes. Frankly, any wellness brand that prioritizes neutrality over using its platform to speak out against the havoc of the ban is endorsing oppression. Not only is Trump's executive order keeping invaluable doctors and researchers out of the country; it's affecting sick people everywhere.

How can America be healthy and happy if we're building fences around ourselves, asphyxiating in a toxic "nationalist" cloud? Of course, many wellness companies recognize what most of us recognize: that the ban is racist, un-American, and dangerous for individuals, for the country, and for the world. Here are a few who are voicing dissent:

1. Nike, not always known for conscientious business practices, is doing the right thing this time. "Nike believes in a world where everyone celebrates the power of diversity," chief executive Mark Parker wrote in a memo to his employees. He was likely responding, at least in part, to the Facebook post of one of Nike's athletes, Mo Farah, a Somali distance runner who lives in Oregon who wrote: "It's deeply troubling that I will have to tell my children that Daddy might not be able to come home—to explain why the President has introduced a policy that comes from a place of ignorance and prejudice." About the ban, Parker asserted, "This is a policy we don't support."

2. To its 460,000 Twitter followers, Food52, a company that encourages cooking as a means of changing the food system, tweeted a link to its blog post, "To Learn About the Foods of the Banned Countries, Open These Books." They've also said, "We're part of an industry whose workforce is dominated by immigrants and it's an issue we care about."

3. Hundreds of tech companies, including a number of wellness companies (e.g. Blue Apron, ZocDoc, Hungryroot, Bowery Farming, Maxwell Health, and Healthify), signed this letter to Donald Trump, criticizing the ban.

Healthify's CEO, Manik Bhat, went a step further. "Being an immigrant myself, the recent executive orders hit close to home. The entire mission of the company I cofounded (Healthify) is to connect people to the social services they need, so we remain vigilant on how we can best support and defend the populations we work with," he tells me. "Right now, we are messaging our users with information on how to find immigration and citizenship support services in their community."

4., a Canadian tech company that collects and distributes information on health, nutrition, and supplementation, wrote an open letter called "Diversity Is Our Strength," calling for action from the Canadian federal government, and closing with, "In the hours following the US decision, many members of our community have privately shared personal stories of their immigrant experience. We ask them now to share those stories publicly so they may be amplified." While the idealization of Canada might be a bit simplistic, leadership like Trudeau's, and the inclusive, progressive environment he emboldens, is looking pretty incredible right about now.

5. One of the coolest voices in the wellness community is Ali Parsa's, from Babylon Health, a London-based health tech company. An immigrant himself, he's not only speaking out against Trump's ban on behalf of his company, but applying pressure to other European leaders in the tech world. As he told Business Insider, "Companies need to take a stand." 

Donald Trump
Muslim ban