Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Health Information Needs of D/deaf Adolescent Females: A Call to Action

Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Health Information Needs of D/deaf Adolescent Females: A Call to Action

Article excerpt

ADOLESCENT HEALTH and health literacy are critical health topics recognized in Healthy People 2020. Evidence indicates that adolescents who are d/Deaf have unique health-related needs, yet health communication efforts have not reached them. Despite the Internet's exponential growth and the growth of online health information-seeking behavior among adolescents, reliable information devoted specifically to d/Deaf adolescents who communicate primarily in ASL is rare. D/deaf adolescent females face numerous challenges accessing web-based health information to enhance their decision making about important health issues such as body image, physical activity and nutrition, puberty, and relationships. A strong need exists for interdisciplinary professionals to investigate the health interests and online health information-seeking behaviors of this group in order to effectively plan, implement, and evaluate a web-based health repository that delivers content in ASL. This Call to Action represents a first step in addressing that need.

In a summary of findings from an annual report to Congress regarding the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Child Count, Gallaudet Research Institute (2011) reported that more than 70,000 children and adolescents have been identified as receiving some type of IDEA-related special education in U.S. public schools. However, these numbers do not account for d/Deaf and hard of hearing children and youth outside the public school realm (e.g., in private schools, schools for the d/Deaf and hard of hearing, or some type of home school). This type of state and local community data is seldom available; therefore, it is difficult to estimate exactly how many U.S. children and adolescents are living with profound hearing loss.

D/deaf youth warrant attention, particularly in terms of health risks and health information needs. Furthermore, as a subset of this population, d/Deaf adolescent females merit attention because of their unique health and communication needs. In the present article, we address health risks of adolescents and d/Deaf adolescents - in particular, health literacy, communication issues affecting d/Deaf adolescents, the Internet as a source of health information, and the health information needs of d/Deaf adolescent females. We conclude the article with a call to action to create a web-based response to address the unique health information and communication needs of d/Deaf adolescent females.

Adolescent Health Risks

As a road map to enhancing the health of all Americans, Healthy People 2020, a public health initiative of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (USHHS), has four overarching goals, one of which is to "promote quality of life, healthy development, and healthy behaviors across all life stages" (USDHHS, n.d., p. 1).

There are several focal areas within Healthy People 2020, one of which is adolescent health. The goal for adolescent health is to promote the health, safety, and well-being of adolescents and young adults ages 10-24 years (USDHHS, 2012). As a passageway between childhood and adulthood, adolescence is a critical life stage characterized by key developmental tasks and milestones. Adolescence is also marked by health risks that threaten the well-being of teens and their ability to transition safely into adulthood. The primary categories of adolescent health risk behaviors include motor vehicle crashes; unintentional injuries and violence; alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use; risky sexual behaviors; unhealthy dietary behaviors; and physical inactivity (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2011). These health risk behaviors present public health challenges because they contribute to the leading causes of death among adolescents and adults, often are established during the early years of adolescence, extend into adulthood, and are interrelated and preventable (CDC, 2010). Furthermore, research has shown that adolescent risk behaviors often cluster. …

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