Identifying Barriers to Physical Activity for Latina Teens

Dates of Project: July 2009 through December 2011

Researchers and residents in New Britain, Conn., under Salud America! The RWJF Research Network to Prevent Obesity Among Latino Children, collaborated to identify and address barriers to physical activity among Latina teens. They used Photovoice to give girls and parents a voice and help develop them as community leaders.

Description: Latina teens are disproportionately affected by obesity, and many feel their voices are not heard by policy-makers.

Robert W. Dudley, MD, MEd, and Jayme Hannay, PhD, MPH, wanted to learn from Latina teens in New Britain, Conn., about the factors that prevented them from becoming physically active, and to empower the girls and their families to advocate for changes within their community.

Low-income Latina teens and their parents participated in focus groups, identifying barriers to physical activity and proposing solutions. Then, they learned to use Photovoice (a way of integrating photos taken by community residents with their thoughts on the photos to create a photo narrative) to make their case in compelling human terms and to become leaders in advocating for change.

The city of New Britain subsequently changed several policies that addressed the priorities identified by teens and their parents in the focus groups and articulated via Photovoice. They include:

  • An out-of-school physical education program to girls who fail physical education. Completion of the course recaptures lost high school credits.
  • A teen center at the YWCA, which will include a medical clinic, counseling, referrals for primary care, and regular training sessions in Photovoice.

"[The project] changed the lives of the girls. They see themselves as having the ability to make change."—Project Co-Director Robert W. Dudley, MD, MEd

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Photovoice empowers low-income Latinas to tell a compelling story and prompts community change for health.