Photovoice: A call to action for SDGs?

With deadline for submissions only three weeks away, this post calls to attention the significance, scope and purpose of the HSR2018 call for Photovoice submissions

There has been a growing prominence of ideas around participation and empowerment in public health. Emphasised nearly four decades ago in historic public health conferences and declarations of Alma Ata and the Ottawa Charter, the idea of “enabling people to increase control over and improve their health” has now become a cornerstone for the new progressive public health and health systems thinking. However, researchers interested in examining various dimensions of inequalities and/or population level impact of policies and programmes are confronted with difficult methodological choices. These arise, in part, from a predominance of large-scale experimental designs in studies on distribution and explanations for inequalities, and simultaneous calls for a better understanding of people’s voices and lived experiences.

Photovoice offers a promising visual/image-based method that is increasingly utilised by researchers, policy makers and practitioners to engage affected people and communities in studying, planning for, and/or tackling global health and development challenges. Rooted firmly in Participatory Action Research, Photovoice can be understood as a process by which people “identify, represent and enhance their community”. Its emancipatory potential lies in the focus on collective production of knowledge towards social change, especially involving those who are excluded in policy decisions and most in need to be heard, such as those whose health care is insufficient due to conflict, migration or faltering aid. Therein also lies the challenge of engaging the most disenfranchised in a meaningful way, not merely as a tokenistic or tick-box exercise, as the author further explores in a forthcoming paper*.

Acknowledging Photovoice’s potential to facilitate engagement and dialogue with communities around issues that affect them, the organisers of the Fifth Global Symposium on Health Systems Research (HSR2018) are delighted to offer the Photovoice exhibit as a mechanism to engage, network and exchange knowledge across sectors to develop stronger communities of practice. Through the Photovoice exhibition, we hope to stimulate conversations surrounding emotive and impactful photographic images, which can help understand or illuminate barriers to health systems, health equity and social inclusion, providing insight and reflection of communities’ needs.

We hope many of you from diverse contexts (of global South and North, research and praxis) can utilise this opportunity and submit your work. The deadline for submissions is June 1, 2018. For guidance on how to submit your photos, please visit the Photovoice page on the HSR2018 website. For examples of Photovoice projects exploring a range of issues in different contexts and locations and how they have been presented, visit the Official Photovoice website.

* Kapilashrami, A. & Marsden, S. forthcoming. Examining intersectional inequalities in access to health (enabling) resources in disadvantaged communities in Scotland: Advancing the participatory paradigm.


Participatory action research on inequalities (in access to health enabling resources) in Scotland
Funded by: British Academy/ Leverhulme Trust
PI: Dr. Anuj Kapilashrami

“The image concerns the health impacts of austerity and reforms to benefits system, whether the stress from changes and being without money or having to learn new skills such as IT to apply for jobs etc.”

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