Photovoice - Documenting the Experiences of Low-Income Families

Principal Investigator: Maria Mayan
Funders: Families First Edmonton and CIHR
Duration: 2009-2010

In 2009, CUP received funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) to produce a short training film for front-line staff and students in the health and social services fields. The film was based on the findings in the Photovoice project originally funded through Families First Edmonton (FFE). Ten women participating in FFE were asked to capture their experiences in accessing health and social services and their perspectives on how to improve systems collaboration. In this particular instance, participants were asked to articulate, through words and photographs the challenges they have faced as low-income families. Participants also described the systemic discrimination they faced and the perceptions many people have about families with low incomes. As part of an integrated knowledge-translation strategy, these findings were shared through presentations that proved so popular researchers and participants were unable to keep up with requests. FFE partners and the participating women came up with the idea of creating a film and accompanying discussion guide that could be shown anytime and anywhere - by and to decision-makers, supervisors, front-line staff, and educators/students. The film and discussion guide will provide:


  1. supervisors of current service providers (front-line) a tool for professional development/training purposes
  2. educators (and students) with materials to be included as part of their curriculum
  3. decision makers with evidence for making policy changes.
The result of this project was an innovative documentary film BureaucraZy: Low-Income Families' Struggles Accessing Health and Social Services.

BureaucraZy features four mothers who share their stories and struggles. It explores themes such as sterotyping, quick judgements, and the red tape that low-income moms' experience with the health and social service systems. By bringing researchers and practitioners together, CUP was able to share challenges, insights, and knowledge in innovative and unexpected ways. The documentary film and accompanying discussion guide is reaching a broad audience including health care professionals, service delivery specialists, program managers, students, and high-level government and community stakeholders.