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Including Deaf People in Health Surveillance

General Information

Monroe County 2006 Adult Health Survey: Administration of the local Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS)

RPRC:NCDHR helped to develop the Monroe County Department of Public Health telephone BRFSS, which surveyed 2,546 adults via random digit dialing in the summer of 2006. RPRC:NCDHR added a series of screener questions about hearing loss or deafness in the household (up to 18 questions, depending on the individual's responses) as a way to try to estimate the size of the local Deaf and hard-of-hearing populations.

RPRC:NCDHR used this telephone sample of Monroe County residents as a comparison group for the RPRC:NCDHR sign language-based Deaf Health Survey 2008 (DHS 2008). A local general population comparison group allows RPRC:NCDHR to work with community partners to identify and prioritize unwanted disparities. Survey findings show that telephone screeners are not a good way to identify households with deaf adult ASL-users, even in a geographic area with a large deaf population. RPRC:NCDHR needs to develop other recruitment strategies in order to include Deaf ASL-users in public health research and surveillance.

The deaf and hard-of-hearing telephone screener was administered to all participants in the telephone survey; nineteen participants described themselves as deaf or having severe hearing loss and none reported sign language use. Five respondents reported one household member used sign language; 3 of those were adults.

Overall, Rochester area DHS 2008 participants had higher educational attainment and lower median income than Monroe County telephone survey participants. DHS 2008 participants were less likely to report current smoking and more likely to report height and weight consistent with a BMI > 25 (overweight/obese). RPRC:NCDHR also identified other disparities and are exploring other findings from these two surveys.

A telephone screener was virtually unable to identify deaf people or ASL-users, even in an area with a large deaf population. Public health professionals should work with local deaf and hard-of-hearing populations to adapt recruitment strategies and surveillance tools in order to measure health in these communities.

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Pollard R, Fasone S, Panko T, Dean R, Kelstone K, Barnett S. Examining Deaf population health inequities from a social justice perspective (Article). Presented at the APHA Film Festival during the APHA 140th Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA; 2012 Oct 31.

Barnett S, McKee M, Smith SR, Pearson TA. (2011). Deaf sign language users, health inequities and public health: Opportunity for social justice (Full text). Preventing Chronic Disease 8(2).ASL Video on this publication

Pandhi N, Schumacher JR, Barnett S, Smith MA. (2011). Hearing loss and older adults’ perceptions of access to care (Abstract). J Community Health 2011 Oct;36(5):748-55.

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Sutter E, Barnett S, Pearson TA. Identifying people who are deaf and hard-of-hearing for inclusion in public health surveillance: Experiences piloting a BRFSS telephone module. Presented at the CDC 27th Annual Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) Conference, San Diego, CA; 2010 Mar 20-24.

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Monroe County 2006 Adult Health Survey report

Monroe County Department of Public Health

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