Center on Race and Social Problems

Photovoice: A Community Based Project to Involve Older Adult Methadone Clients in the Decisions that Affect Their Lives.

Principal Investigator(s): 
May 1, 2005 to February 1, 2006
Funded by: 
Staunton Farm Foundation

The overall goal of the proposed project is to examine the current barriers that prevent older African American methadone clients from remaining abstinent from illegal drug use, and help to identify the service needs of this vulnerable population. Virtually no research has reported specific information regarding the perspective of older African American methadone clients in the services they need and desire.

Utilizing the methodology of photovoice—a process by which people can identify, represent, and enhance their community through a specific photographic technique – the objectives of this collaborative project between University of Pittsburgh researchers and staff at Tadiso Inc.—a methadone clinic on Pittsburgh’s North Side are to: (1) empower African American Tadiso methadone clients over the age of fifty to record and reflect on their lives; (2) increase collective knowledge about the health and social status of older African American methadone clients; and (3) engage policymakers, treatment staff at Tadiso, and the broader society about health and community issues that are of greatest concern and pride to the clients. Photovoice relies on both the visual image and accompanying stories to furnish evidence and to promote an effective, participatory means of sharing expertise in order to create healthful public policy. A purposive sample of ten older methadone clients initially interviewed in a pilot study and who have offered written consent at the time of the first interview to be contacted regarding participation in future studies will be recruited for participation in this project. The photovoice sample will consist of ten African American methadone clients from Tadiso who are over the age of fifty. Participants in this research project will be involved in taking photographs of various topics relevant to their lives. The project will last for a maximum of 8 weeks and participants will be asked to attend 1 training session, and 5–7 group sessions which will include individual interviews that will last approximately 15–30 minutes. The first session will be a training session that introduces participants to the concepts and techniques of photovoice and in the technical aspects of using a camera. After the initial training, each week participants will be asked to take photographs surrounding a specific theme such as transportation or spirituality. These photos will be used to guide individual interviews and group discussions. Initially, weekly themes will be guided by research staff however; a major component of this photovoice project is to facilitate a group process with the older methadone clients where they identify the domains and areas to be explored so that a research agenda is not imposed on or directed by academic researchers or professional staff at the clinic. This “conceptualizing of the problem” is a critical first step in the photovoice process and a key to empowering clients to be involved in the process. Therefore, as the project progresses weekly themes will be increasingly guided by project participants with the help of the research staff and group facilitators. The method of photovoice has been successfully utilized with various marginalized populations across the country and abroad. The photovoice method is structured to promote an exchange of ideas between participants, community members, policy makers, and other community leaders through group discussions and photographs.