Mechanisms of Health Literacy and Information Accessibility in the Deaf (2015-2020)

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Funded by National Institutes of Health

Funding Years: 2015-2020

Deaf American Sign Language (ASL) users are nearly seven times more likely to have inadequate health literacy when compared with their hearing peers. This population is the non-English speaking minority group at greatest risk for miscommunication in health care settings. Health literacy mechanisms for deaf individuals remain poorly understood, thereby limiting interventions to address health literacy disparities and their impact on health care. It is unclear how differences in attitudes, knowledge, and skills related to health information affect health literacy in deaf populations and how they may contribute to ongoing health inequities. The two primary objectives of this proposal are: 1) to elucidate the role of information marginalization on health literacy in Deaf American Sign Language (ASL) users and 2) to better understand the mechanisms of health literacy in this population so as to identify viable targets for future health literacy intervention development. This proposal is responsive to PAR-10-133's request for studies that assess mechanisms underlying health literacy, including roles of cognition, culture, language fluency, and information-seeking and interpretation ability in the deaf population and, how these may differ from the hearing population. To meet the study objectives, we will employ an explanatory sequential mixed methods design using extensive quantitative data collection procedures, namely, cross-sectional surveys and measures that will identify predictors and moderators of health literacy with 450 deaf and 450 hearing subjects across three geographically diverse sites. These results will inform the subsequent qualitative assessment that will help explain the quantitative results, and elucidate how and why deaf individuals access and understand health information. We will incorporate cutting edge technology to assess health information-seeking and interpretation patterns in this population, in addition to using a variety of validated and ASL-accessible instruments to assess health literacy and other constructs related to health literacy. The diverse team, consisting of both leading deaf and hearing researchers, provides a unique insight into how health information is distributed and disseminated visually. This approach has the potential to generate rich data on how to formulate health information and health literacy interventions for individuals with hearing loss.

PI(s): Michael McKee

Co-I(s): Lorraine Buis, Michael Fetters, Ananda Sen