Brief Description of the Community

An urban community near a large southern city. this community is predominantly African-American and suffer the effects of poverty on the health and well-being of the residents and community at large. During the Spring of 1997, community residents worked with a University to identify and prioritize 5 community health concerns: elderly, violence, environment, family health and substance abuse. However, representation was limited and three years have elapsed.

They created a “governing board” to revisit the community’s health issues, increase awareness and dialogue related to the broad definition of health, and increase participation and representation within the community and university. This governing board had been in place for about five years.

One needs assessment had been completed but little else had been accomplished. We proposed to this project to use storytelling and photovoice to engage the community in creating a shared vision for a healthy community, a prioritized health agenda, and an action plan for implementation. The project was presented as a needs assessment but my expectation was that it would operate more as an intervention than a needs assessment. If I only knew then what I know now.


The neighborhood includes 7,600 acres with a population of approximately 33,900 people. Ethnic composition is 79.1% African American, 8.7% Hispanic, 9.8% White, and 2.2% Asian. Twenty-eight percent of families in X Community live below the poverty level and approximately 37% have household incomes under $15,000. Forty-one percent of the residents are employed in low paying retail jobs and 32% of the population over age 25 have less than a high school education

The Idea:
Photovoice was developed by Dr. Caroline Wang – handing out disposable cameras, having a community document their issues as they see them and then reflecting and dialoguing on these issues. We added storytelling to expand the project past a needs assessment and into a combined self-diagnostic/change-creating intervention.

The Basic Plan:

Aug. 27 Eight hours training – hand out disposable cameras to participants

Sept. 1 Cameras to be returned to facilitators for processing

Sept. 8 Distribute pictures and story worksheets back to participants

Sept. 15 Collect two photos per participant accompanied by 5 sentence story

Sept. 23 Facilitate a democratic process to choose 20 photos that are considered by the community to a.) move and inspire b.) tell a positive story without ignoring tough issues, and c.) invite curiosity. Dialogue about the stories the photos tell.

Oct.1-24 Send the PhotoStories on tour inside and outside the community -at the multi-purpose center, community meetings, at the University, and on my website to promote storytelling as a tool of self-advocacy.

Oct 25 Organize a community storytelling concert with slides of the PhotoStories on the day of the annual community banquet

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