Youth Health Awareness Council (YHAC)
The South Asian Adolescent Diabetes Awareness Program (SAADAP) provided 80 South Asian adolescents in the Peel Region of Ontario, Canada, an opportunity to participate in the South Asian Adolescent Diabetes Awareness Program. This was a pilot intervention aiming to provide diabetes prevention knowledge, resources and tools to youth with a family history of type 2 diabetes.
A subset of these participants went on to also participate in the second phase of the study, for a PhotoVoice project. In a series of workshops, the participants were given photography training and were also introduced to the concept of the Socio-Ecological Model. They learned about the wide range of individual, interpersonal, organizational, community and policy level factors that impact one's health and well being. Participants engaged in a qualitative PhotoVoice study, where they took photographs to capture and comment on various factors from the Socio-Ecological model that impact their diabetes prevention efforts in their day-to-day lives.
After the completion of the SAADAP and the PhotoVoice project, a group of 9 adolescents continued to work with the research team and formed the Youth Health Awareness Council (YHAC). This group of young, female South Asians between the ages of 15-19 continues to meet regularly to build on ideas discussed in the research study they participated in. The YHAC consists of a group of dedicated and passionate young minds that want to mobilize and become agents of change in their families, schools and communities.
At the Beyond the Body: PhotoVoice Exhibit taking place in September, 2020, the YHAC will express their perspectives on diabetes risk in the South Asian community living in the Peel Region of Ontario. Their visual narratives will be featured in a virtual public exhibit which will be showcased in a documentary-style exhibition. The youth will speak about their experiences in SAADAP and highlight in their photographs how migration stressors, income insecurity, mental health, the built environment, and interpersonal relationships influence diabetes risk in their ethnic communities.
Through this unique art exhibit, these South Asian youth will have a platform to connect directly with the arts community, government, academia, healthcare, educators and school boards, social-service agencies and the broader public. This ground-breaking initiative exemplifies how youth can be mobilized and empowered to become champions for public health and work towards breaking the cycle of diabetes.