Using Photovoice to Build Healthier Communities: A Youth Empowerment Approach

This story was originally published through 100 Million Healthier Lives and is brought to you through partnership with 100 Million Healthier Lives and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.

Teen Nutrition Council

Community health promoter (CHP) programs--especially when youth driven--can be a force for achieving health equity. Our CHP program, the Teen Nutrition Council's (TNC) mission is to increase students' awareness and responsible decision-making regarding health and wellness by incorporating leadership skills in research, advocacy, and social determinants of health. The TNC program employs a peer-to-peer model that engages youth as leaders in promoting healthy lifestyles with 4th-12th grade students and the broader community. They are trained on healthy lifestyle behaviors, disease prevention, media, research, advocacy and community engagement. In addition, they are trained to conduct community health improvement projects that utilize youth health activism tools, including Photovoice, a community assessment tool using photos from the communities' perspective that frame the contexts of their daily lives. The training allows youth to reach a wider audience and serve as role models to children and peers.

"Due to the training, I now consume more fruits & vegetables, I exercise more than before, and I now pay more attention to nutritional values in food." - Cassandra Gonzalez


Empowering teens to be active community members and gain confidence in voicing their concerns to city officials and those with decision-making power and aid in the dissemination of factual information regarding current health issues (i.e. obesity, physical activity, etc) affecting their peers and the broader community.


  • Educate and advocate for consumption of recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables by low-income (185% of federal poverty level) students and their families.
  • Provide school and community-based nutrition education workshops.
  • Conduct cancer screening and prevention awareness to the community.
  • Co-facilitate the Summer Health Camp in partnership with Duarte Unified School District (DUSD).
  • Facilitate presentations to City Council, the Parks and Recreation Commission, and The Healthy Cities Collaborative (HCC), offering input of the health needs and healthy policy of their community.

“I was able to achieve my goals during the training. Especially drinking more water, no sugary drinks. I take a water bottle everywhere I go now.” - Emily Diaz


What is Photovoice?

Photovoice is a process in which people use photo images to capture aspects of their environment and experiences and share them with others. The pictures can then be used, usually with captions composed by the photographers, to bring the realities of the photographers’ lives home to the public and policy makers and to spur change. It is an effective tool where people can capture and share their own visual interpretations of positive or negative health impacts in their community.

Photovoice has three main goals:

  • To help those who are often unheard gain a voice, enabling them to record and reflect on their experiences and their communities’ conditions, both positive and negative.
  • To encourage critical consciousness. Through choosing, discussing, and reflecting on the subjects of their photographs, the photographers can come to a clearer understanding of their circumstances and the economic, social, psychological, and political forces that shape them.
  • To bring about change that will improve conditions and enhance lives by reaching and influencing policy makers.

"The project allowed for our city officials to acknowledge the problems in the city and fix the issues that are affecting the health of teens, children, families and individuals in our community. We are creating healthy communities by making our voices heard in civic organizations, meetings and projects like this one!" - Teen Nutrition Council

TNC Photovoice Findings

"A park is supposed to be where kids can have fun in clean air but instead it's turning into a place where people smoke and contaminate the air and then just leave the harm for kids to find."

"What good can a park be without having children taking advantage of it?"

"Closed down grocery stores around the city make it difficult for residents to buy food."

"In order for us to be active and healthy we must disregard the obstacles we face on a day to day basis."

"Swap the junk food for a nutritious meal with food you can buy locally."

"Streets without sidewalks make it a dilemma for people walking, either walk on the street or step on someone's yard."

“I think the TNC has taught us many good things that we could use for the rest of our lives. The Photovoice project helped me and other people have a voice. I also felt we had a big role in our community when we got invited to go to the meeting and when they said they would remodel the park; it made me feel like I had a big part in that.” - Alfredo Alvarado

Aloysia Park Grand Opening



"We presented our Photovoice findings  at the City Council and Healthy Cities Collaborative (HCC) meeting—a committee of local organizations and City policy makers interested in local health issues.The City of Duarte Parks and Recreation Director stated that the department would remodel Aloysia Park, which is worn down and unwelcoming with little light as a result of our Photovoice project. The park will now have a new playground replacing the old metal slide and swings and will have an outdoor fitness area for the community to exercise free of charge." -Teen Nutrition Council

The new playground equipment is much safer and attracting to children.

The BBQ grills and picnic tables allow for families to enjoy a nice day out while cooking meals together. 

The park is more inviting and welcoming due to its vibrant colors.

Outdoor Fitness Area

"Parents are now able to exercise at the park while their children play. The entire family will be active!" -Teen Nutrition Council