Why are Many Deaf People Unhealthy?

By Pearlene Utley

As a Deaf person since birth carrying 7th generation of connexin 26 (Deaf genes), I always wondered why many Deaf people are often not as healthy as they could have been. I know that this does not apply to every Deaf person but from my years of experience as a fitness coach where I have had in depth conversations with people from all kinds of backgrounds. From grassroots to well-to-do people, they typically are missing out on important health related information in the ever evolving health and fitness world. This may sound like a stereotype but it is something that I have experienced personally so this article can help you stay motivated despite the barriers.

Before, as a residential student for majority of my childhood I was miserable on the inside, lacking knowledge of healthy lifestyle, desperate for the endorphin kicking workouts and refreshing clean eats. After, as an adult I am currently empowering myself to take proactive actions towards living my best each day.

Internet? But there is the internet? There are a lot of information running around like bulls. You can say that but even the most inquisitive Deaf people like myself, cannot keep up with the latest because there are more and more YouTube videos without captions that were created by "experts" in the field. Even professional health websites by hospitals have free educational videos that are NOT captioned. When I see videos like this, I roll my eyes and then send them a message to request captioning but often they would direct me to other videos that has captioning which would help a bit… but imagine having to face this on a constant basis everyday.

To do?
#1 It is wonderful that people are making videos to share information, but Deaf people need to make our own videos in ASL to share important information like the things that your doctor would discuss with you, healthy eating, clean eating, organic gardening, and so many more. MAKE VIDEOS in ASL!

 SHARE and INSPIRE, don't wait for someone to caption it because, hearing people have plenty of videos available for them.

#2 Deaf people can search for blogs or articles and read on topics they need to learn more about. If you don't find something with similar symptoms as you need to learn about, keep searching and keep trying different keywords until you hit the jackpot. 

My Deaf daughter is currently empowered to be willing to learn as she is being raised under our roof, because it is not easy communicating with just anybody about our needs and wants.

Doctor or any other alternative professionals? When we visit our doctors or any of alternative services like a nutritionist, chiropractor, massage therapist, we are confronted with using an interpreter or paper & pen to discuss personal matters. I personally prefer to talk to the doctor directly but with an interpreter, I have to hope she spoke what I expressed in depth and accurately- and it's really important that the doctor really gets MY vibe, not the interpreter's.

I want to connect with them personally.

Sometimes the doctor has this little mental block of not being able to speak to me directly and become less willing to share in depth information or the doctor may feel uncomfortable sharing through an interpreter, thinking I would want to keep things discreet. It can become very complicated.

Can you imagine overweight Deaf people trying to discuss a very personal and emotional issue of trying to lose weight with the doctor with an interpreter.

As a fitness coach, I enjoy in depth conversations with my Deaf clients about their goals, some of their weight or health problems in our native language and when I get off the phone with them, I always tell myself…

"What if they try to have this kind of conversation with their doctor?"

I am just happy they could at least open up with me because identifying with someone they can feel safe to share about their bad habits is one the best first step onward to healthier lifestyle.

To do?

1. Write down your health issues, and the solutions that you have heard of, researched and is interested into bringing to the doctor's appointment.

2. You can also call the office in advance and ask the office to request an interpreter that is sensitive and familiar with the topics you will talk about at your appointment… it helps to have a specialized interpreter in a proper setting.

3. Send an email with all the details even after there have been an interpreter just to make sure the doctor is CLEAR on what you are struggling with and what your goals are. Sometimes you will get a detailed email back that will help you with learning the terminology for the things you need to work on.

 Check back soon for more helpful tips from Pearlene Utley!

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