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Faculty & Staff Honors

Faculty & Staff Honors

Columbia Faculty Co-editor of Global Public Health Issue on Participatory Visual Research

A Special Issue of the journal Global Public Health online May 23rd focuses on Participatory Visual Methods, the use of arts-based visual tools such as digital storytelling, participatory video, archiving, and collage for collecting, analyzing, and working with research data. Dr. Marni Sommer, Mailman School associate professor of sociomedical sciences, served as co-author of the issue with Dr. Claudia Mitchell, professor in the department of integrated studies in the faculty of education of McGill University.  Emily Vasquez, a doctoral student in the department of sociomedicial sciences at the Mailman School, served as the managing editor of the special issue.

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[Photo: Dr. Marni Sommer]

Central to Participatory Visual Methods is collaboration. Engaging participants and communities, the methodologies draw out responses about one’s health and well-being. A key aspect of visual research is its power to represent what is difficult to put into words, especially by marginalized populations. For example, a set of photos or videos can offer new evidence from the visual perspective of a group of young women on how they see sexual violence. Unlike data that is collected through surveys or conventional interviews, the images not only inform the empirical evidence,
but can leave the laboratory or office of a researcher. Through exhibitions and screenings, the visuals also can reach many audiences: school or health personnel, parents and community members, in addition to policy-makers.

Dr. Sommer has a particular expertise in conducting participatory research with adolescents, understanding and promoting healthy transitions to adulthood, the intersection of public health and education, gender and sexual health, and the implementation and evaluation of adolescent-focused interventions. She has worked in global health and development on issues ranging from improving access to essential medicines to humanitarian relief in conflict settings.

The journal Global Public Health was launched at the Mailman School of Public Health in 2006 by Dr. Sommer and Dr. Richard Parker, professor of sociomedical sciences.