An image from MOPA’s PhotoVoice project. Photo courtesy of Marisol Hernandez

The Museum of Photographic Arts is joining the Ventura County Behavioral Health Department in launching a study with the goal of examining racism as it relates to substance abuse.

The study, titled PhotoVoice, will use a photo interpretation tool that helps Ventura County youth take the lead in important conversations with local policymakers and community members.

“Visual communication is a powerful tool for social issues, that’s why interpreting a photo is as important as reading a page from a book,” MOPA Director of Innovation Joaquin Ortiz said. “We want the youth to feel empowered to address the inequities present in their communities by providing them with tools that will help them interpret the world around them.”

Museum officials said “PhotoVoice Oxnard gathered information that will give direction to VCBH’s race-conscious substance abuse prevention program. The data will also strengthen its health promotion plan for racial minorities.”

“We are on a fact-finding effort on how racism impacts behavioral health in Oxnard to enable the community to shape a race-conscious behavioral health program and address local systemic racism,” said R. Bong Vergara, research consultant and principal investigator at Ventura County Behavioral Health.

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