A Food Environment Photovoice Project in Madrid: A Tool to Gain Empowerment and Reconstruct Neighborhood Biographies
Our aims were (1) To enable residents of a low-income urban area to record and reflect their community´s food environment, (2) to promote critical dialogue and knowledge about the local food environment through small group discussions of photography, and (3) to evaluate how this experience transforms the collective neighborhood biography.
Therefore, we carried out 4 photovoice discussion groups (men and women, within 40-75) in two contiguous low-socioeconomic neighborhoods by 8 public health practitioners and 4 researchers. Participants took images on their local food environment, serving as prompts to elicit residents’ health concerns and beliefs regarding urban environmental determinants of eating patterns. Discussions were transcribed and interpreted using thematic analysis with the aid of Atlas.ti software.
47 pictures (out of 134) were selected by the participants, to be included in a photobook and an exhibition to share their experiences with other community members. “Economic crisis/poverty”, “cultural diversity”, “healthy&cheap” and “social relationships” are collective and cultural food values building the neighborhood identity. Throughout these groups, residents became aware of the relevance of their food environment, demanded a nutrition-workshop and strengthened their social networks. New bridges were built between the community and public health practitioners, who gained new and deeper knowledge about the residents’ concerns and new ways to connect with them.
Photovoice is improving the Heart-Healthy-Hoods project (hhhproject.eu), by helping residents rebuild their identity together, gain knowledge of their environment and engage in a process of individual and collective empowerment. Photovoice is a powerful tool to change residents´ self-concepts about themselves and reconstruct collective biographies.