Case Studies: Town Criers Photovoice Project
Challenge: Alameda County declared an epidemic for HIV/AIDS yet the media ignored the story. At the time we launched Town Criers, 60% of all new cases of HIV were African American women. According to one reporter, anthrax (9/11) was the new public health “story” and HIV/AIDS, which had been around for 20 years, was old news.
Approach: Sandy Close, of Pacific News Service, hired KYS to bring attention to the epidemic using Photovoice. The Photovoice methodology, created by Dr. Caroline Wang of the University of Michigan, engages real people, using photography and writing, to communicate a message in a “raw” voice that gets the attention of policymakers and the media.
Results: Town Criers put cameras in the hands of inner-city heterosexual youth, an “unusual suspect” messenger, to bring attention to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Alameda County. Town Criers attracted the first front-page, above-the-fold story (e.g., SF Chronicle, [11/25/01]) in a major daily on the prevalence of HIV/AIDS within the African American community. We turned the pictures and essays into a photo exhibit and traveled the exhibit throughout Alameda County, including showings at the Public Health Department, HIV/AIDS clinics, and African-American churches. Town Criers received more media coverage than any other Photovoice project in the history of Photovoice and became a national model for public health departments throughout the nation.
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