CDC Renews Support, $4M, for Deaf Health Research at UR

Sep. 29, 2014

The Rochester Prevention Research Center (RPRC): National Center for Deaf Health Research (NCDHR) received a $4.35 million award from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to continue promoting good health among Deaf American Sign Language users and people with acquired hearing loss. The funding cycle begins today with $750,000 and continues for five years.

The RPRC at the University of Rochester is the only research center in the world that works with deaf sign language users and people with acquired hearing loss to prevent disease using community-based participatory research. Historically, people in these groups have been excluded or overlooked, resulting in populations that are underserved, understudied, and undereducated in terms of health practices and health knowledge.

“We are grateful to have the financial support to continue our mission to eliminate health disparities with communities of deaf sign language users and people with acquired hearing loss,” said Steven Barnett, M.D., director of the RPRC and associate professor of Family Medicine.

The latest grant will fund an adaption and second clinical trial of the Deaf Weight Wise (DWW) program, an in-person healthy lifestyle intervention developed by deaf and hearing researchers and community members. The initial DWW clinical trial, which ended in summer 2014, studied a DWW healthy-lifestyle intervention with deaf people ages 40 to 70. The American Heart Association recognized RPRC’s work on DWW with its Award for Excellence in Research Addressing Cardiovascular Health Equity.

Over the next five years, researchers will adapt DWW for use in younger adults, ages 21 to 40, and conduct a second clinical. Based on feedback from the Rochester deaf community and national advisors, the study collaborators decided that for this second study to adapt DWW for use with the younger group by also incorporating a videophone component with one-on-one counseling.

Therefore, the second DWW clinical trial will evaluate the adapted intervention with younger adults, and will compare the in-person group intervention with a remote videophone one-to-one counseling intervention.

Having an accessible and effective healthy lifestyle program that could be offered remotely via videophone could reach people in Rochester and elsewhere in the country who are unable to attend in-person intervention, Barnett said.

“Deaf Weight Wise was a great research project for the deaf community. DWW gave us an opportunity to learn information about dietary habits and physical activity that the population at large is already aware of,” said Dina Zeplin, a past DWW participant. “DWW brings us one step closer to obtaining equal access to health information.”

RPRC will also continue its work with people with acquired hearing loss to identify and address health disparities. Don Bataille, co-chair of the RPRC Healthy Living with Hearing Loss Community Committee, said: “The award for the next grant cycle not only validates the importance of understanding the interrelationships of hearing to health and healthcare, it maintains the momentum that many have worked to build and helps pave the way for vital and exciting research opportunities.”

The RPRC was initially funded in 2004. In earlier funding periods RPRC scientists worked closely with the deaf community to develop linguistically and culturally appropriate methods to survey deaf sign language users and gather data about community strengths, health disparities, and to establish research priorities. Based on RPRC data, the Rochester deaf community selected obesity, partner violence, and suicide risk as three health research priorities. During the past five years RPRC has successfully obtained research grant funding for all three community-identified priorities.

The University of Rochester is one of 26 academic institutions to receive the latest round of awards. Most awards are supporting studies of how people and their communities can avoid or counter the risks for chronic illnesses, such as heart disease and cancer in addition to obesity.  

“Prevention research centers have reached up to 31 million people in 103 partner communities, some of which are the most underserved in the country,” said Ursula E. Bauer, Ph.D., M.P.H., director of CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. “By involving communities in conducting and disseminating research, this network of centers ensures that effective and innovative health strategies can be readily shared and applied where most needed.”