“You can see all the damage. It's torn down and one of the rubber wheels missing one tire. She has Medicaid and Medicare and she's been trying to get a wheelchair and they keep denying her. She had made numerous attempts to get a new wheelchair and have failed. She's been trying this probably a year and a half, close to two years."
What Is Photovoice?
Photovoice is a research technique in which community members are provided cameras to photograph their personal challenges and successes in relation to an identified issue or research question. The community members then collaborate with the research team as “co-researchers” to discuss the intentions of their photographs, distill their stories into photo captions, and investigate overarching themes relating to the identified issue of concern. The aim of the photovoice technique is to empower participants and promote social action by providing a visual platform that brings their photos and stories to policy makers, relevant stakeholders and the larger community.
“Every day, this house speaks to me, and so I took the picture. It’s just like myself. It just needs some help, some sincere help. Somebody that’s really gonna care. Somebody that’s gonna put some effort into finding out what could be done about your situation. That’s all this house needs."
The Community Voice is a collaborative project involving students and faculty from the VCU Departments of Health Administration, Art Education, and Social and Behavioral Health, VCUHS administrators from the Virginia Coordinated Care program, Hands Up Ministries, a nonprofit focused on addressing poverty in the city and providing affordable housing, and residents from Richmond's largely underserved Highland Park community.
Our twelve co-researchers were given digital cameras and tasked with taking photos of the challenges and successes they encountered in accessing healthcare and living a healthy life. They then discussed their photos in a group setting with the research team at meetings over a five-month period. From these meetings emerged incredible stories of environmental stress, challenging work environments, inadequate resources, gatekeepers of the system that both help and hinder access to care, and so much more.
It is our hope that this dialogue will continue as we share our project with the larger community.
“My father, diabetic, heart medicine, high blood pressure. He stopped using the medicine. He had an enlarged heart and he had a heart attack and passed. I went [to the doctor] last week, had foot surgery on my toes. They cut my tendons. [My doctor] asked me, ‘How many those Pepsis you drink a day?’ He got on me so bad. He said, ‘Sugar is killing you.’ I cried in that office. I felt like he was my father telling a young boy something."