Language of Care: University of Utah Health Researchers Co-Design Health Care With the Deaf Community

Navigating health care is hard enough when English is your first language—imagine the difficulty when American Sign is your first language. How can we bridge the linguistic and cultural gaps needed to better care for patients? University of Utah Health is proud to present Language of Care, an incredible story of how a community of Deaf patients are breaking barriers by co-designing their own care with University of Utah Health researchers.

Made possible by generous support from the Kahlert Foundation, Language of Care premiered at Sundance Film Festival 2023. The film showcases an innovative approach to health care being co-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 U.S. 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 is creating solutions for health equity in the Deaf community. By understanding the community’s unique needs, the team is tailoring 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’re changing the way heath care works,” Litchman explains in Language of Care.

Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Ross Kauffman came to Utah to document the Language of Care story. Kauffman has directed a number of award-winning films, including Born into Brothels, Of Medicine and Miracles, and Tigerland. Language of Care 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.

Language of Care is the third film in the U of U Health-produced series New Narratives in Health, 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 insights vastly improved the quality of life for Tyler, a boy with a rare, debilitating disease. The second, Meet Me Where I Am, follows Adolphus Nickleberry through his journey at U of U Health’s Intensive Outpatient Clinic as he rewrites his story, which had been shaped by health disparities.

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About University of Utah Health

University of Utah Health  provides leading-edge and compassionate care for a referral area that encompasses Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, and much of Nevada. A hub for health sciences research and education in the region, U of U Health has a $458 million research enterprise and trains scientists and the majority of Utah’s physicians and health care providers at its Colleges of Health, Nursing, and Pharmacy and Schools of Dentistry and Medicine. With more than 20,000 employees, the system includes 12 community clinics and five hospitals. U of U Health is recognized nationally as a transformative health care system and provider of world-class care.