Background: Clinicians, public health practitioners, and policymakers would like to understand how youth perceive health issues and how they can become advocates for health promotion in their communities. 1,2 Traditional research methods can be used to capture these perceptions, but are limited in their ability to activate (excite and engage) youth to participate in health promotion activities.
Objectives: To pilot the use of an adapted version of photovoice as a starting point to engage youth in identifying influences on their health behaviors in a process that encourages the development of health advocacy projects.
Methods: Application of qualitative and quantitative methods to a participatory research project that teaches youth the photovoice method to identify and address health promotion issues relevant to their lives. Participants included 13 students serving on a Youth Advisory Board (YAB) of the UCLA/RAND Center for Adolescent Health Promotion working in four small groups of two to five participants. Students were from the Los Angeles, California, metropolitan area.
Results: Results were derived from photograph sorting activities, analysis of photograph narratives, and development of advocacy projects. Youth frequently discussed a variety of topics reflected in their pictures that included unhealthy food choices, inducers of stress, friends, emotions, environment, health, and positive aspects of family. The advocacy projects used social marketing strategies, focusing on unhealthy dietary practices and inducers of stress. The youths' focus on obesity-related issues have contributed to the center's success in partnering with the Los Angeles Unified School District on a new community-based participatory research (CBPR) project.
Conclusion: Youth can engage in a process of identifying community-level health influences, leading to health promotion through advocacy. Participants focused their advocacy work on selected issues addressing the types of unhealthy food available in their communities and stress. This process appears to provide meaningful insight into the youths' perspective on what influences their health behaviors.