Using Photovoice to Shine a Light on Health Inequalities Among Youth of Color During the Pandemic

Youth social justice movements are growing in the United States and around the world, tackling important issues such as climate change, racial justice, access to education and gun control . In health care, youth involvement can lead to better understanding of patients, engagement in services, and increased trust in services. It can also promote patient and community empowerment.

Recognizing the benefits of youth engagement and leadership, a new study by researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) and social work, presents young people’s perspectives and experiences on the issue of individual health and community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Our research describes the work of Youth Advisory Council members, supported by a team of adults, to improve the experiences of young people of color who have been historically marginalized by the health care system.”

Katherine Gergen Barnett, Study Lead Author, MD, Clinical Associate Professor of Family Medicine, Boston University School of Medicine

The researchers used Photovoice, an established methodology that incorporates the use of cameras to capture images that are then reviewed and reflected. In this case, the goal was to explore individual and community perceptions of the health of young people of color during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The young researchers were asked to take a series of photos over three weeks focusing on what health or cleanliness meant to them and their community. They then selected five photos and shared them with the group. Questions were posed to encourage deeper reflection on the impact of social, cultural and contextual factors on how young people of color conceptualize what health means to them.

The young researchers were then asked to share their reactions to seeing the photos as a group, including what they found interesting and what stood out to them. The photos were captioned and five photos reflecting the larger story were selected. Using thematic analysis, the young researchers then reflected on the themes of the individual photos and across the photos, considering how the photos related to the research question. Through in-depth discussion and from the identified themes, the young researchers came to a consensus on the larger narrative depicted in the photos.

The young researchers identified four themes related to individual and community health through the digital images and discussions, including: 1) Taking health into your own hands; 2) culture of toxic productivity; 3) High cost of personal health resources; and 4) inequitable health policies and services.

According to the researchers, these themes are a powerful demonstration of both the inequitable impact of COVID-19 on communities of color as well as the historical medical mistrust (of government, policymakers, and health care) in communities of color. color. “Our findings show the need to change this narrative of distrust,” said Gergen Barnett, who is also vice president of primary care innovation and transformation at Boston Medical Center.

“First, we want to create tangible change in the health resource structure in Boston’s communities of color. Second, we hope that the impact of our research will demonstrate the resilience of communities of color during the quarantine period of the pandemic. of COVID-19,” said young researcher and co-author Osasenaga Idahor.

The researchers believe this study shows the importance of creating spaces to elevate the voices and leadership of young people of color in health care decision-making. “Community engagement is critical to developing and implementing race-relevant and race-sensitive health care practices,” added corresponding author Astraea Augsberger, PhD, assistant professor at the BU School of Social Work.

These results appear online in the Journal of Community Psychology.

The young researchers in this study were members of a pilot youth advisory committee in the Department of Family Medicine at Boston Medical Center, funded by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, National Institutes of Health, through the University from Boston-Clinical & Transitional Science Institute, Pilot Grant 1UL1TR001430 (Drs Augsberger and Gergen Barnett from PI).


Boston University School of Medicine

Journal reference:

Augsberger, A. et al. (2022) COVID-19 shines a light on health inequities in communities of color: a youth-led photovoice survey. Journal of Community Psychology.


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