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Program uses art to engage at-risk kids
Date:1/19/2010

PITTSBURGH, Jan. 19 Identifying the public health and safety needs of children from low-income communities may be best accomplished through art, report University of Pittsburgh researchers in the current online issue of Progress in Community Health Partnerships: Research, Education and Action. In their paper, researchers describe the success of Visual Voices, an arts-based program that engages community members as partners in research.

The study was based on Visual Voices programs conducted with 22 children ages 8 to 15 in two low-income and predominantly African-American communities in Baltimore and Pittsburgh. During the Visual Voices sessions, participants created paintings and drawings to share their perceptions, both positive and negative, of community safety and violence, as well as their hopes for the future. Afterward, they combined their individual art projects into two "visual voice" exhibits that were publicly displayed in each city.

Michael A. Yonas, Dr.P.H., Visual Voices creator and assistant professor, Department of Family Medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and colleagues at Pitt and the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy, used qualitative research methods to review and code the participants' art projects for themes. Factors that participants identified as important to safety included school and social networks family, friends and the local community. Places that they identified as unsafe were corner stores, streets and alleys with poor lighting, and abandoned houses. Other contextual factors identified as unsafe were drugs, smoking, drinking, gambling, guns and violence.

"Community members are experts in their own lives much more so than those who reside outside their communities," said Dr. Yonas. "Visual Voices helps incorporate residents' unique expertise into the research process in a non-intrusive and fun way, and creates valuable data about their life experiences
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Contact: Clare Collins
CollCX@upmc.edu
412-648-9725
University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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