Approximately one-third of all U.S. adults and children are obese and at-risk for a wide range of related chronic health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, stroke, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, and certain types of cancer. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other expert resources recognize that although individual-level factors such as good nutrition and physical activity are core determinants of obesity, a comprehensive approach that includes environmental and policy-level changes is necessary to promote healthy behaviors and prevent obesity. Communities are being called upon to implement environmental strategies evidenced to promote good nutrition and physical activity. Guidelines for recommended environmental strategies and measurements have been created to help communities plan and monitor environmental and policy changes that promote good nutrition and physical activity. Although the expert recommendations are helpful in guiding communities on what to do (i.e., specific environmental and policy-level strategies to implement), several challenges exist regarding how to go about the work of engaging a community in obesity prevention. The proposed project will use a qualitative, ethnographic method of using documentary photography, photo exhibits, and advocacy to empower groups of youth and adults to do the work of obesity prevention in their communities. The overall goal of this Phase I STTR project is to test the feasibility of developing Picture Me Fit (PMFit), a multi-component online resource designed to train community members, including youth, to: a) represent environmental factors contributing to obesity in their communities by using a process known as photovoice and b) use photo projects to assess the physical environment of a community, raise community awareness, mobilize stakeholders, and inform environmental and policy changes.
This project has the potential to increase the capacity of communities to employ comprehensive strategies to reduce and prevent overweight and obesity, and ultimately improve the health and well-being of children and adults. A contribution to the science of prevention will be made by developing and testing an approach to community-based prevention that can be applied to other social and health issues.