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Our Solutions:

  • To address health disparities between Deaf and hearing populations by having Deaf communities working together with healthcare researchers and providers

  • Our ultimate goal is to deliver health information in ASL to bring the Deaf Community up to the par in health literacy

Board of Directors


Matthew Starr



Susan Demers-McLetchie

Vice President

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Arlene Hsieh Sankey


Patricia Canne
Chris Kelley
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Donna J. Nelligan-Barrett
Samuel Dien
Beth Metlay
John T. Reid
Sharon Haynes
IV Mirus
Jason Rotoli

Shelby Sanchez

Website Manager

History of
Partners in Deaf Health

In 1985, over 290 public health and healthcare experts from the federal government and several universities worked together for the first time to study why minority Americans continue to struggle to stay healthy. One of the causes for poorer health among the minority population was more illness, injury, disability and death when compared to majority population. This is known as “health disparity.” Reasons for health disparities are many - unequal and discriminatory access to care, inconsistent quality of care, limited health insurance coverage and more. Efforts to reduce health disparities among minority Americans (e.g., African Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans, people with disabilities, and more) have begun as a result of this landmark study. 


As for Deaf Americans, a linguistically and culturally minority, efforts to identify potential health disparities did not begin until late 2003.


The University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) and Finger Lakes Health Systems Agency (now called Common Ground Health), started a partnership with members from the Rochester area Deaf community to create the Deaf Health Task Force. The purpose was to identify healthcare issues affecting Deaf people. This Task Force, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Association of Teachers of Preventive Medicine, released a report of their findings and recommendations in August 2004.


This report was crucial for a newly established community-based participatory research (CBPR) center at URMC. This far-reaching CBPR grant, awarded in September 2004 from the Prevention Research Centers Program at CDC, focused on addressing health disparities in the Deaf community. Several Deaf members from the Deaf Health Task Force were engaged with the researchers by supporting the Deaf Health Community Committee in 2005.


In 2013, after nearly 10 years with numerous enlightening achievements in CBPR publications, presentations, exercises and conferences about Deaf health (not about hearing loss) with URMC, community members of this partnership changed directions in response to evolving resources and viewpoints. Partners in Deaf Health, Inc., (PDH), a Deaf-lead independent nonprofit 501 (c)(3) organization, was formed with this mission, “To promote an understanding of health needs of culturally Deaf people.” 


PDH continues to maintain its two programs: Deaf Health Talks (in ASL) and Finger Lakes Deaf Health Fair. PDH also partners with the School of Education, Health and Human Services at The College at Brockport for providing Brockport Deaf Health Clinic (a reverse role-playing exercise) to their nursing students. PDH was recognized by the College at Brockport during Community Partner Award Ceremony in December 2017.


Interested members of the Deaf Community are always welcome to participate either in our board and/or activity committees.

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