Photovoice: Picturing health in our community

I thought about walking to the office this morning. I do not live far and it would be a nice way to get some fresh air and exercise in on a busy day. But then I remembered the ice, mud and puddles on the sidewalks caused by the melting snow. Did I really want to arrive with soaking wet feet? Was I going to risk slipping and falling on the ice?

Most people know how important it is to have a healthy lifestyle, but sometimes our environments can make it difficult. The general belief is that poor health is the result of poor decision making, but the truth is much more complex.

The world around us shapes our behaviour more than we think. The people we interact with, the spaces we spend our time and even larger societal factors all play a huge role in determining our health. Our environments can shape our behaviours in big and small ways, whether it’s walking to work, being able to find a healthy snack, or having the social support to quit smoking.

At Public Health we are interested in learning how your environment can make it easier or harder to be healthy. To do this, we have launched the “Picturing Health in Our Community” Photovoice Project. During a Photovoice project, people use photographs to share their experiences on a specific topic. In this case, we are asking participants to take photographs of the people, places and things in their communities that make it easier or harder to be healthy.

So far, we have gotten some great responses. Not only have people sent in gorgeous photos, they have also drawn attention to important issues about healthy eating, physical activity, alcohol and tobacco use and (most of all) preventing injuries.

People have pointed out great community resources…

'Community Board at the Two Rivers Neighbourhood Group office at Tytler School, is full of information regarding healthy living opportunities in the community, such as healthy eating workshops and physical activity for the whole family- yoga, zumba and gym night, which help enrich the lives of all of those living in the neighbourhood'

And fun activities open to the public…

‘The downtown City Hall Splash Pad was a favourite spot for us to cool down last summer and have safe fun. It is so well maintained that I don't need to worry about safety issues!'

As well as things that they wish were different…

‘I ALWAYS use these stairs. I like how they cut off half my travel time. But I try not to use them in winter. Why? Well, I slipped on the ice, and nearly fell. People salt the sidewalks, driveways, parking lots, and pathways, but they NEVER salt the stairs. Even though all it would take is the last little crumbs at the bottom of the bag.’

We will use the information collected to promote initiatives, programs and services in the community that support our health while also advocating for change to address things that make healthy living more difficult.

Although groups in Guelph have already started, we are still recruiting for sessions in Centre Wellington and Dufferin County. Participants will be invited to a training session, after which they will be asked to take photos related to the project goals and write short captions. Later, there will be an opportunity for participants to speak about their photos in a focus group and discuss how to make healthy living easier in their communities.

If you are interested in being involved in the “Picturing Health in Our Community” project, please call our Project Coordinator Blair Hodgson at 647-281-5540 or email photovoice.wdgph@gmail.com.