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Pharmacists to Create ASL Videos for Diabetes Education

June 1, 2018

As a population, studies show that individuals who are deaf or hard-of-hearing are nearly seven times more likely to lack basic health information compared to the hearing population, leading to increased risk for illnesses including diabetes. One reason for the knowledge gap? A scarcity of resources and material in American Sign Language (ASL). That’s a problem two faculty members at the Wegmans School of Pharmacy at St. John Fisher College are working to change.

Dr. Nabila Ahmed-Sarwar and Dr. Elizabeth Sutton Burke

Bolstered by a $20,000 grant from the National Association of Chain Drug Stores Foundation, the School will develop a series of videos that use ASL and spoken word to provide information on diabetes prevention and management. The grant was obtained in collaboration with the College’s Office of Sponsored Programs, and helps advanced the Foundation’s mission of using education and research—through charitable involvement—to help people improve their health and quality of life by increasing their understanding of medication therapy and safe medication adherence practices.

The project will be spearheaded by Dr. Nabila Ahmed-Sarwar, associate professor, and Dr. Elizabeth Sutton Burke, assistant professor, who are both certified diabetes educators and are board certified in advanced diabetes management.

“There is a huge health literacy and knowledge gap in this population because everything is designed for hearing patients and there’s a misconception that a video with captioning is sufficient. But, we know there are large pieces of content that are lost to those who use ASL as their primary language,” said Sutton Burke. “Our goal is to fill that gap and use the most effective way to communicate with individuals who are deaf.”

Ahmed-Sarwar and Sutton Burke will engage pharmacy students that have an interest in caring for patients with diabetes to assist in the development of content for five 10-minute videos—in partnership with community health organizations—that will cover the basics of Type 2 diabetes, making smart food choices, blood glucose control, treatment options, and complications that can arise from diabetes.

Intended for public viewing, the videos will be posted on several websites and shared on social media, among other digital outlets. Brochures promoting the videos will also be available to pharmacists to share with patients. Viewers will have the opportunity to take a short post-video survey to offer feedback on how to improve future videos.

In addition, Ahmed-Sarwar and Sutton Burke will use the videos in conjunction with an educational program that offers diabetes care and culture sensitivity training to pharmacists and health care providers that highlight best-practice communication strategies for working with deaf and hard-of-hearing patients. 

Ahmed-Sarwar and Sutton Burke said the lack of materials most helpful to deaf patients is a major issue right in Fisher’s hometown, as Rochester has the largest concentration of adults who are deaf or hard-of-hearing in the United States.

“The ADA has expanded its information to accommodate diverse patients, but we recognize that Rochester has a significant population of individuals who are deaf or hard-of-hearing, and we currently don’t have anything to offer them in ASL,” Ahmed-Sarwar said. “This grant gives us the opportunity to use our knowledge and training and be creative in delivering this information. We know it’s needed here in Rochester, and we’re excited that the patient care arena at the national level felt it was important, as well.”