We all know the impact photos can have – the feelings and emotions they can evoke and the discussions they may generate…
For this very reason, you’re invited to the Opening Reception for the new Photovoice exhibit January 9, 2009 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at The Phipps Center for the Arts in downtown Hudson, Wisconsin. This exhibit showcases over 100 photos taken by mothers raising children in St. Croix County. Photos represent mothers’ perspectives with regard to community needs, personal reflections and parenting strategies, and community assets.
Photovoice as a method was developed by Dr. Caroline Wang during the late 1990s. Since then, it has been used by academics, allied health professionals from local county public health departments and clinical settings, educators, community activists, and policy makers for the purposes of assessment, evaluation, and community building.
Considered an innovative research method with regard to research traditions, fewer than 100 publications describing Photovoice studies have been located in English among peer reviewed literature in databases for medical and allied health professionals since the late 1990s. It is not possible, however, to estimate the number of communities that have conducted Photovoice projects, as many may have taken place and not been published in peer reviewed journals.
The goals of Photovoice according to Dr. Wang are threefold: “to enable people to record and reflect on their community’s strengths and problems, to promote critical dialogue and knowledge about personal and community issues through large and small group discussion of their photographs, and to reach policymakers.”
[CITATION: Wang, C. (1999). Photovoice: A participatory action research strategy applied to women’s health. Journal of Women’s Health, 8(2):185-192.]
Photovoice research places cameras in the hands of local residents so they can record images of their daily life experiences. Collective dialogue about these perspectives is fostered among stakeholders who have the resources to improve community health and implement positive social change. The process empowers members of vulnerable populations and ordinary people, who usually do not have access to decision makers, as experts in their own right. It allows residents to become engaged in finding solutions that enhance community living. What stakeholders may think is important could be different from what community members think is important. As such, Photovoice is well-suited to assess the needs of a community, especially for helping to understand the “story” behind the statistics, to better understand the issues and needs of under served populations, as well as what resources these groups most depend on. Photovoice allows decision makers to “do a pulse check” of their constituents and use this information for meaningful and relevant planning and program development. For more information visit www.photovoice.com
Photovoice was selected as a research component of the ongoing St. Croix County Community Health Improvement Process. In joint partnership, Hudson Hospital & Clinic, St. Croix County DHHS - Public Health and the Wisconsin Area Health Education Center (AHEC), University of Wisconsin - Madison engaged in this research to hear the voices and see the views of mothers raising children in St. Croix County to more relevantly target programs and coordinate community planning for families. Dr. Maggie Stedman-Smith, independent consultant, facilitated the research process.
Assessing the Health of St. Croix County
Since 1995, communities throughout Wisconsin have developed and implemented local health plans, typically every five years, to address health conditions impacting their residents. This process has been referred to as “community health improvement process”, named in part, due to the resulting health status changes in a community and the people that live there.
This past June, Hudson Hospital & Clinic and St. Croix County DHHS – Public Health joined together to begin assessing and prioritizing health needs of our region. Local health departments are required by law to “regularly and systematically collect, assemble, analyze and make available” information on the health of their communities. Beginning in 2009, the IRS is “highly encouraging” Wisconsin not-for-profit hospitals, like Hudson Hospital & Clinic, to complete a formal community needs assessment as a means to validate that hospital resources (community benefit contributions) are directed to identified community health needs.
The St. Croix County Community Health Improvement Process (CHIP) is a strategic, ongoing, and a community-based approach for creating and maintaining healthy communities. A steering committee of 25+ members from diverse organizations and agencies across the county provides oversight and guidance.
Over the next four months, the committee is expected to collect, analyze, and summarize data (including the Photovoice research findings) so as to educate and mobilize area organizations to address top health priorities, garner resources, and plan actions to improve public health.
Photovoice exhibit runs through February 15, 2009. For more information, call Karen Hansen, Community Relations – Hudson Hospital & Clinic at (715) 531-6056.