Deaf patients break barriers by designing their own treatment with University of Utah Health

It’s hard enough to navigate healthcare when English is your first language – imagine how difficult it is when American Sign is your first language. How can we bridge the linguistic and cultural gaps necessary for better patient care? University of Utah Health is proud to present Care languagean incredible story of how a community of deaf patients is breaking barriers by designing their own treatment together with researchers from the University of Utah Health.

Made possible by generous support from the Kahlert Foundation, Care language premiered at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. The film showcases an innovative approach to health care created by Michelle Litchman, PhD, her research team, and members of the deaf community from across the country. Together they lead a program called Deaf Diabetes Can Together. Litchman is a nurse practitioner, diabetes researcher, and medical director of the Intensive Diabetes Education and Support (IDEAS) program at the University of Utah.

Nearly 40 million people in the United States live with diabetes, but the majority of deaf people with diabetes do not have equal access to health care. The film tells the story of how Deaf Diabetes Can Together creates solutions for health equality in the deaf community. By understanding the unique needs of the community, the team tailors educational and other types of resources to increase access to accurate information and care. This model is being replicated for rural, Pacific Islander and other under-resourced communities.

“Together with our patients, we are changing the way healthcare works,” explains Litchman i Care language.

Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Ross Kauffman came to Utah to document Care language history. Kauffman has directed a number of award-winning films, including Born in brothels, Of medicine and miraclesand Tigerland. Care language was produced by Robin Honan with executive producers Joe Borgenicht of U of U Health, award-winning documentarian Geralyn Dreyfous and Heather Kahlert of the Kahlert Foundation.

Care language is the third film in the U of U Health-produced New Narratives in Health series, which brings together scientists and artists to more broadly communicate advances in knowledge. The first film in the series, One in a million, tells the story of how advanced genomic technologies combined with expert clinical insight dramatically improved the quality of life for Tyler, a boy with a rare, debilitating disease. The second, Meet me where I amfollows Adolphus Nickleberry through his journey in U of U Health’s intensive care unit as he rewrites his story, which had been shaped by health disparities.


University of Utah Health

Deaf patients break barriers by designing their own treatment with University of Utah Health

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