BACKGROUND: Cardiovascular disease leads in overall mortality and morbidity in the United States. Cardiovascular disparities remain high among minority and underserved groups. Deaf American Sign Language (ASL) users are an underserved and understudied group that receives little attention from researchers due to language and communication barriers. A recent ASL survey in Rochester, NY, indicated greater cardiovascular risk among Deaf participants. The study objective was to investigate risk perceptions of cardiovascular disease among Deaf ASL users, linking perceptions to features of Deaf culture and communication. This information will be used to inform future strategies to promote cardiovascular health among Deaf adults.
METHODS AND PARTICIPANTS: Four focus groups were conducted in Rochester, New York, with 22 Deaf participants in ASL. Videotaped sessions were translated and transcribed by a bilingual researcher. A team of investigators coded, analyzed, and identified key themes from the data.
MAIN RESULTS: Themes centered on five major domains: knowledge, barriers, facilitators, practices, and dissemination. The majority of themes focused on barriers and knowledge. Barriers included lack of health care information access due to language and communication challenges, financial constraints, and stress. Inconsistent knowledge emerged from many key areas of cardiovascular health.
CONCLUSIONS: The study outlines key themes for improving cardiovascular health knowledge and perceptions among Deaf ASL users. Findings suggest the importance of providing health educational programs and information in ASL to maximize understanding and minimize misconceptions. When caring for Deaf ASL users, providers should take extra effort to ask about cardiovascular risk factors and confirm patients’ understanding of these factors.