Visual and Participatory Research Methods for the Development of Health Messages for Underserved Populations

Salva Najib Balbale*, Andiara Schwingel, Wojtek Chodzko-Zajko, Marian Huhman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Mass communication health campaign messages play critical roles in public health, yet studies show mixed effectiveness in reaching and impacting underserved populations. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the benefits of using visual and participatory research techniques toward health message development targeting older Hispanic women. Demographic information and levels of physical activity were first obtained in a sample of older Mexican women (n = 23; ages 71.9 ± 7.6 years) living in the city of Chicago. Perceptions of physical activity were then assessed using a visual research method known as photo-elicitation. Health message concepts promoting physical activity were developed with a subsample of the target population using a participatory approach. Photo-elicitation helped develop a unique understanding into the many factors impacting physical activity among older Mexican women. Follow-up in-depth interviews provided detailed narratives that (a) built upon visual data and (b) identified characteristic differences between physically active and inactive women. Ultimately, these findings were beneficial in constructing new, culturally tailored message concepts. Findings suggest that this method may be a valuable tool in the development of mass communication health messages, extracting rich and meaningful data from target audiences while fostering a sense of partnership between researchers and community members. Tailoring and improving the message design process around the needs of underserved populations is essential in the effort to eliminate the burden of health disparities. This study uses innovative interdisciplinary research techniques to explore new approaches to public health communication in underserved populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)728-740
Number of pages13
JournalHealth Communication
Issue number7
StatePublished - Aug 2014
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Communication


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