Deprivation and the Deaf community
British Society for Mental Health and Deafness: “Legislation against Disability Discrimination has been powerless to prevent discrimination against this cultural/linguistic minority. Most Deaf people do not consider themselves to be disabled; a majority (55%) do not identify themselves as having a ‘Hearing Impairment’. If Deaf people all lived in one place their community would be at the top of the Deprivation Index and would qualify for significant government funding to put right the damage caused by decades of National Institutional Discrimination across Government Departments. Instead, as a dispersed cultural/linguistic indigenous minority, literally without a voice, they are ignored. “Three in a Thousand” does not seem to exist; statistics below 1% are routinely suppressed for convenience, leaving over 100,000 deaf Adults without access to appropriate services.”
What defines a vulnerable social group in England, most consistently, is a lack of access to entitled healthcare and some of the worst health outcomes. The deprivation and discrimination faced by Deaf people ultimately results in a greater burden of lowered life expectancy. According to the Marmot Review a variety of socio-economic factors reduce life-expectancy by seven years for England’s poorest. The Deaf community commonly hold high rates of low-income, unemployment, poor educational attainment and have major difficulties in accessing health and social services. This creates a pooling effect of national deprivation trends. This situation only worsens for Deaf people within BME communities.
Understanding well-being and long-term health conditions
[Exeter man with diabetes video]
Since 2007 we have spoken to many Deaf people who live with long-term health conditions and do not understand how to provide adequate self-care. This is especially problematic with diabetes and other potentially life-threatening conditions
Those who are more aware of their condition face accessibility and communication barriers when trying to use NHS services, especially when seeking information in fluent BSL
For Deaf patients the aspirations of the NHS to develop greater self-care and achievement of the Outcome of “Enhancing quality of life for people with long-term conditions”, are simply out of reach
Deaf mental health
Nearly half of all deaf people in England suffer some kind of mental health issue at some time or another, these are usually common mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. This is due to a range of social and health factors which are similar to those creating deprivation in the Deaf community
The overlapping of Deaf inequalities and mental health issues deepens the risks faced by Deaf people. Already facing communication barriers and other access challenges, such as confidence in accessing services and knowledge of offered services for Deaf mental health patients, exclusion from life improving and saving care is a fact of life.
Cardiovascular disease among Deaf people, especially in BME communities, is an example of a documented risk faced due to health inequalities. A 2011 study conducted in the Sandwell area indicated the following:
“Irrespective of the vocabulary of Deaf people, sign language also appears to be underdeveloped. An example that arose during health consultations was that there was no sign for cholesterol.”
“Due to (…) these language barriers, many Deaf people are denied the most of health promotion known to save lives (…). It appeared there had been little exposure to cardiovascular health promotion in this group (…).”
“The design and delivery of CVD health promotion specific to Deaf people deserves further study given that this group appears to be at an increased risk.”
The CVD health risk to Deaf people is a continuation of these widely shared deprivations, only made worse by the absence of clear information available in direct BSL