Conference Paper

Documentary as a tool for community-based participatory policy work: The THRIVE study

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Background: Community-based documentary filmmaking is an innovative participatory research method, building on the tradition of photovoice, and providing community members with video cameras to investigate issues of concern, communicate their knowledge, and advocate for change. Methods/Results: The Tribal Health and Resilience in Vulnerable Environments or “THRIVE” study aims to improve the food and physical activity environments of the Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations of Oklahoma. Community-based documentary filmmaking is being used throughout the study in the following innovative ways: collect qualitative and environmental footage, by the community members themselves, as part of a community assessment and planning process; disseminate edited video footage via community screenings followed by facilitated talking circles to prioritize intervention strategies; channel collectively-defined priorities to policy decision-makers for implementation. Additionally, all planning meetings, telephone conferences, trainings, etc. are being documented for the creation of a feature-length documentary—“Weight of the Tribal Nations” – and web-based step-by-step manual training others to use these methods to create health-promoting policies in their communities. We will present a model for using community-based documentary filmmaking, selected video footage demonstrating the method, and findings from the community assessment and planning process of the THRIVE study. Conclusions: This innovative method uses the power of visual media and the culturally-centered tradition of storytelling to engage tribal citizens in the documentation and re-imagining of their community landscapes, and then utilizes their video data for action and advocacy. The process and preliminary video data presented will assist other practitioners and communities in utilizing the method within their own work.

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