Through the lens: Youth experiences with cancer in rural appalachian kentucky using photovoice

Katie Gaines, Courtney Martin, Chris Prichard, Nathan L. Vanderford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Rural Appalachian Kentucky experiences disproportionately high cancer incidence and mortality rates. This cancer burden is due to social determinants of health and cultural factors prominent in the region. The firsthand experiences of community members—especially young people—can highlight these factors and identify areas for improvement. The purpose of this study was to encourage Appalachian Kentucky youth to consider determinants of cancer and visualize the effects that cancer has on their families or communities by asking them to take photographs of cancer-related objects around them. Content analysis was performed on 238 photographs submitted by 25 students, and photographs were organized into themes, subthemes, and subtopics. The six themes that emerged were risk factors and exposures, marketing, awareness and support, health care, experiences, and metaphorical representations. Many of the submitted photographs aligned with cultural, environmental and/or situational factors prevalent in Appalachian Kentucky. Of the submitted photographs, 54 were displayed as an installment in two Kentucky art galleries. Viewer comments at the exhibitions demonstrated that young community members can educate and motivate change in those around them. Ultimately, this project demonstrates that young community members can recognize cancer-related issues around them and connect personal experiences back to the larger Appalachian Kentucky cancer disparity while also having an impact on other community members.

Original languageEnglish
Article number205
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Appalachia
  • Cancer
  • Cancer disparities
  • Photovoice
  • Rural
  • Youth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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