What happens when you give dozens of teens and youth cameras and tell them to document their towns and everyday lives? Turns out quite a lot. From improving or constructing sidewalks in small rural towns where youth can safely exercise and play, to increasing access to healthy foods in their communities, many Missouri youth are concerned about improving their built environment.
Our friends at the Healthy Lifestyles Initiative, part of MU Extension, worked with the MU Health Communication Research Center to recruit students and teachers for Photovoice Missouri, a year-long effort aimed at giving young people simple education and advocacy tools to talk about the issues that matter most to them. The pictures students took and shared document their everyday lives, including both the positive health behaviors they saw, and the areas where they thought improvements could be made.
Recently, a group of students were chosen as having photographed the most compelling issues facing their towns and, along with their teachers and families, they were invited to Columbia for an awards ceremony where the winning student was announced. It was a moving ceremony and was featured in the MU Extension podcast.
While the concept of Photovoice has been around for decades, it’s exciting and eye-opening to see what fresh perspectives and ideas people bring forth. Among the photos submitted by the students from Dallas, Dent, Lafayette, Mercer, Ralls, and Shelby counties, as well as the City of St. Louis, many of them related to livability issues: access to sidewalks or bike lanes, crumbling infrastructure, safety issues around getting healthy. Some students are already working with their teachers to educate their community and civic leaders on the importance of healthy and active streets and neighborhoods.
Check out Photovoice Missouri and see what youth around our state have to say and show: