The world’s first large scale study of the health of Deaf people, compared with the hearing population, has been published in two medical journals today.
BMJ Open and the BJGP (British Journal of General Practice) both carry the results of the research. It revealed shocking inequality in treatment, which means that some Deaf people are at risk of reduced life expectancy.
The papers show that Deaf people are twice as likely to have undiagnosed high blood pressure as the rest of the population. In cases where they have been diagnosed, it’s three times more likely that their treatment isn’t working.
More than half of Deaf people with heart disease aren’t being treated properly, and the same is true of diabetes. Deaf people with high cholesterol are half as likely as hearing people to be on medication to bring it under control.
The causes include a lack of interpreters at consultations, inadequate booking procedures, and almost non-existent health information in sign language. Poor communication is leading to missed diagnoses and ineffective treatment.
“This is unintentional neglect, likely to lead to shortened lives”, says Steve Powell, Chief Executive of the Deaf Health Charity SignHealth. “A basic lack of knowledge on the part of health professionals is leaving a vulnerable community with inadequate healthcare”.
Health economists have estimated that the poor diagnosis and treatment are costing the NHS £30 million a year. SignHealth have suggested simple measures which professionals can adopt easily, to improve health outcomes, and save money.
The findings have influenced the forthcoming NHS Accessible Information Standard, which is designed to improve access and communication for patients who currently face difficulties with healthcare.
The research was commissioned by SignHealth, carried out by the University of Bristol, funded by a grant from the Big Lottery Fund.
You can read the BMJ Open paper here: http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/5/1/e006668.full
The BJGP paper can be read here: http://bjgp.org/content/65/631/95
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