The Latina Health Coalition Launches Photovoice Project

10/08/12  Portland, Ore.

Pregnancy rates for Latina teens in Jackson County are nearly double those for non-Hispanics. A research project led by OHSU School of Nursing faculty in Ashland, Ore. seeks to understand why young Latinas are so much more likely to get pregnant.

by Bill Kettler
Excerpt seen in School of Nursing Connections Fall Edition

“One of the things we’re realizing is that it’s a much larger issue than just a sexual risk factor,” says Joanne Noone, Ph.D., F.N.P., C.N.E., associate professor and Campus Associate Dean for the OHSU School of Nursing in Ashland.

The coalition recruited young Latinos and Latinas to explore aspects of community life that are likely to increase the risk of pregnancy as well as those that prevent pregnancy. The teens used a technique called photovoice, in which they take photographs and write brief captions that crystallize an idea or concept.

“Photovoice is a way to engage people who may not traditionally have a voice in responding to community needs,” Noone observes.

Noone is lead academic representative of the Jackson County Latina Health Coalition, a community-based organization that’s examining reproductive health disparities for Latinas in Southern Oregon’s most populous county. The two-year project is funded with a $100,000 grant from the Northwest Health Foundation.

The youths said factors such as loneliness, easy access to alcohol, family mobility, and the scarcity of group activities can lead teens to sexual activity that may produce a pregnancy. Peer pressure, as well as the media’s focus on sex and glorification of pregnancy, also encourages teens to be sexually active.

Nancy Ibarra, a student at Rogue Community College, used a photo of a magazine stand displaying a prominent photo of a very pregnant Jessica Simpson to illustrate the media’s ability to influence teens.

The youth said teens who have strong family support and those who get involved in clubs and team sports are less likely to be sexually active.

Stephanie Leal used a photo of hands grouped around the word “family” to illustrate the importance of strong family support.

“Our culture has a lot of power with family,” she wrote. “It’s a big thing. For me, my parents have always motivated me to go to college, have a higher education. I like to think before I act. Any decision can lead to a big mistake. Having a strong bond with your family often helps many bad things from happening.”

Pablo Nava, a student at Eagle Point High School, said many youth don’t have basic information about sexual activity and pregnancy. Many parents who are new to American culture don’t understand the sexual pressures their children must cope with.

“We don’t live through what our parents lived through,” Nava says.

Tiffany Allen, a nursing student and research assistant for the project, says she was impressed by the youth’s “eye for capturing ideas and their ability to articulate those ideas into words. It takes an immense amount of strength to present these findings to their community and parents.”

Coalition members will use the youth’s findings to help develop a strategy to address Latina teen pregnancy. The coalition also plans to focus on preventing cervical cancer among Latinas and improving birth outcomes.

“I think this project can bring positive changes because we teens have insight on the triggers of teen pregnancy,” Ibarra said after completing the photovoice project. “We have a great group of people and I'm sure that combining our knowledge and ideas we will definitely come up with a great plan.”