Health Care Discrimination in the Deaf Community

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The UK Census in 2011/12 for England and Wales estimated that potentially 20,000 people are Deaf community members and using BSL as their main language and although the number of sign language users in the United States has not been measured by census efforts, the National Centre for Health Statistics estimates a range between 500,000 and 2 million users who facilitate the use of ASL as their primary language. The deaf community is the most vulnerable yet the most neglected, there twice as likely to experience abuse, mental health problems and underachieve in their goals due to language barrier, poor access to the healthcare system seems to be the main barrier however and places deaf people at high risk for poor health knowledge and lack of access to medical and behavioural care within our health system. Although the anti-discrimination and equality law requires that service providers must make reasonable adjustments for effective health communication, many health care settings do not provide certified and qualified medical and mental health interpreters. In addition to this deaf people are often excluded from healthcare research resulting in limited data in the UK or worldwide concerning their health status.

This seriously highlights the importance of deaf awareness across the board but most importantly among healthcare professionals, consequently these barriers directly affect the health of deaf people and manifest into greater cardiovascular health outcomes and higher rates of obesity from inadequate assessments, limited access to treatment and insufficient follow-ups.

 

I am not deaf myself but my younger sister is and I am aware of how frustrating it is for her to access information on health and wellbeing. In part this is what inspired the name Def-Nutrition for the nutrition side of things I do, I wanted to include and welcome the deaf community to any information or advice that’s been shared with the hearing population.

The aim of these blogs is to empower all people especially deaf people to take full control and responsibility for their health, it is fair to say that deaf access to facilities and information has been sub-standard now for many years and it really shouldn’t be.  I also appeal to others who participate in sharing knowledge on health, history or relationships to include this forgotten community just by simply adding subtitles to documentaries/videos. This group of people live normal lives with limited information due to communication factors, and often raise hearing children so you can see how valuable receiving information is for them.

 

deafawareness

A Deaf Health study published earlier this year compared the current health of deaf people with the general population and reported that deaf adults showed high levels of risk factors for chronic diseases, such as CVD, hypertension, diabetes, and high levels of self-reported depression. The report suggests that the high rates of raised BP at assessment could reflect undetected hypertension and/or poorly controlled hypertension, also that half of deaf people reporting CVD appeared to not be on                                                                      appropriate treatment.

  • Overall, 41% of the Deaf participants were overweight (BMI 25–30), and 30% were clinically obese (BMI>30)

 

  • The frequency of raised BP was higher in the Deaf participants (37%) than that reported in the HSE (21%). Moderate to severely high BP was significantly more common in Deaf men (15.9%) than in Deaf women (7.7%)

 

 

  • The rates of depression self-reported by Deaf participants were 32% women and 14% men—similar rates to those from other studies of Deaf adults

Despite this studies have reported lower smoking rates (9%) of the deaf respondents, compared with 18 % in the general population this may be due to the prominent visual warnings on cigarette packaging and stop smoking posters. Alcohol consumption was also lower than the general population, which may be from communication issues in BSL, but also may reflect different social patterns of drinking and a high rate of abstinence in the Deaf community.

 

But it is not all gloom and doom, the deaf community have their own community network and share a positive and vibrant culture. In attempts to meet the diverse needs of deaf people there are a handful of medical and mental health programs training their students to work with these populations, these types of efforts are significant and will provide vast health equity to the deaf population. The best way forward like I would advise anybody else is to incorporate a healthier lifestyle by being more conscious of what you consume, so that you may have a body that is working at its optimum, a body that has energy to go all day without crashing, a body that is strong and can fight of illness. Disease does not discriminate – whether your deaf or hearing, the body just reacts to its toxic environment, if your healthy you must do whatever you can to preserve that health, if your not you must do whatever you can to take yourself

prevention

 

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