Photovoice: Seeing the Community Through the Eyes of Our Youth
14-year-old photographer from Heart of Los Angeles
Children’s Hospital Los Angeles partners with youth-serving organizations to empower young people from across L.A. County to identify the unique strengths and needs of their communities through photography.
By Sara Jones
You might think kids today are more interested in selfies than in the world around them. But not so for the more than 150 young Angelenos who participated in CHLA’s 2022 Community Health Needs Assessment Youth Photovoice Project.
Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and the Office of Community Affairs has unveiled an online photography exhibit called “Through My Lens! Elevating the Voices of LA County Youth Through Photovoice.” The virtual 3D gallery contains hundreds of photos taken by these community conscious youth, from fifth-graders to young adults, accompanied by narratives to convey their meaning.
Supporting the community is an essential component of the hospital’s mission to create hope and build healthier futures, particularly for underserved children. Every three years, the hospital’s Office of Community Affairs conducts extensive data collection and analysis of the needs and assets of communities across the county of Los Angeles, where 85% of its patient population resides, and shares the results in the Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA).
The Photovoice Project offers L.A. County youth an exciting opportunity to participate in the CHNA and help shape the future of their communities.
What is photovoice?
Photovoice is a participatory method of data collection first defined in the journal Health Education and Behavior as “a process by which people can identify, represent and enhance their community through a specific photographic technique.” Photovoice is built on the concepts of individual and community empowerment, critical consciousness, and an awareness that a community’s strengths and needs should be identified by those who live there. Moreover, because Photovoice is accessible to anyone with a camera, it can showcase perspectives not often prioritized.
“Photovoice is an amazing way to amplify the voices of our youth,” says Susana Gantan, MPH, Senior Program Manager of Community Affairs and Government Relations at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. “It shines a light on what they see as the important issues in their communities, encourages them to impact what they see, and hopefully empowers them to continue thinking about the health of their community.”
Photovoice in action
To engage youth for the 2022 Photovoice Project, Children’s Hospital partnered with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Antelope Valley, Mar Vista, San Fernando Valley, Santa Monica and West San Gabriel Valley. Heart of Los Angeles, John Marshall High School, After-School All Stars LA, Strength Based Community Change (SBCC), LGBTQ+ Center in Long Beach and Beach Cities Health District were also collaborators. These community partners encouraged the youth they serve to participate and provided a space for them to come together to learn about the project and its goals.
CHLA team members met in person or virtually (following the COVID-19 guidelines at the time) with participants from each partner organization. These meetings focused on economic stability, education access and quality, health care access and quality, neighborhood and built environment, and social and community context—concepts which are often referred to as social determinants of health. Many of the participants are interested in a future in the health care field, and these sessions also gave them the opportunity to hear CHLA experts talk about their careers and the importance of their work.
With cameras provided at no cost and an understanding of the social determinants of health, participants ventured out to capture images and share their unique perspectives on the beauty, strengths and concerns specific to their communities. From June to November 2021, 152 young Angelenos submitted more than 500 photos and accompanying narratives. Submissions were reviewed and analyzed by CHLA and the Center for Nonprofit Management, and the insights and overarching themes will be incorporated into the 2022 Community Health Needs Assessment to be published in July 2022.
In their own voices
The photos and narratives presented here are just a small sample of the hundreds submitted for the 2022 Youth Photovoice Project.
"This resource is importance to me because it allows me to play with my friend while doing something I enjoy a lot. I am able to do extracurricular activities and exercise every time I am here."
11-year-old photographer from San Fernando Boys & Girls Club
“I live in Monterey Park. The pictures I took are in my city and show environmental issues. I took these pictures because they show what needs to change. The subject affects my health and the health of the community because there is no care and hopefully [this] brings attention to the problem. I want to see change in this issue because it will hopefully solve the problems and improve the community’s well-being.”
16-year-old photographer from West San Gabriel Valley Boys & Girls Club
“The picture I took is in the road and shows the projects and Boys & Girls Club. I took this picture because it relates to the social determinant of health community context. The subject affects the health of the community because it gives the youth a safe place to learn, have fun and grow. I'm grateful because I was given this opportunity. From this I've built great relationships and have been through great experiences. Through the Photovoice program I learned what social determinants of health are and how we have them all around us. With the program I was aware of more things. I learned to appreciate what resources I have but also what we can improve as a community. I really feel more aware of my surroundings.”
17-year-old photographer from Mar Vista Boys & Girls Club
Learn more about CHLA’s commitment to community benefit.
If your youth-serving organization is interested in becoming involved in future photovoice projects, contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.