Using Photovoice with a Vulnerable Population to Inform Policy Change

Thursday, 25 July 2013: 8:30 AM

Patricia Cannistraci, DNS, RN, CNE
School of Nursing, Excelsior College, Albany, NY

Learning Objective 1: The learner will be able to identify 3 facilitators and 3 barriers to health and wellness for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Learning Objective 2: The learner will be able to describe 1 methodology effective for collecting research data when working with a marginalized and vulnerable population.


Multiple national initiatives have established a focus on improving health, promoting healthy aging and preventing further disability from chronic disease among adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). Despite the recognized importance of health promotion, increased health disparities exist among this population. The literature reveals a lower fitness level, poor nutrition, and a general sedentary lifestyle have increased risk for chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, dental disease, and vision problems. Notably lacking in the literature is inquiry of what these individuals perceive as facilitators and barriers to health. This study listened to the voice of participants with I/DD in an effort to identify their reality of health, inform practice and society at large of this priority, and shape health policy.


This qualitative study explored facilitators and barriers to health and wellness among participants using Photovoice and photo elicitation methodologies. Photovoice has been used to gather data when conducting research with vulnerable or marginalized populations who often times are not able to find voice or are represented by proxy voice. In addition, perceptions of support staff – key community members who are charged with facilitating health and wellness for the individual they support, were gathered through a focus group meeting.


In total six facilitator themes and three barrier themes were revealed around health and wellness for the participants. Of great significance was the ability of the participants to be articulate and savvy in using cameras to capture daily realities and provide descriptions and context around their photos.


While facilitators and barriers were similar to those of the general populations, a crucial observation was that participants were able to generate the study data, thus changing how we come to know about health and wellness and challenging assumptions about the ability of participants to inform practice and policy.