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Harmonious Journey: Understandings of the Healthy Body and Body Image for First Nations Girls in the Battlefords Tribal Council Region through Photovoice



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First Nations peoples in Canada are increasingly referred to as an ‘at risk’ population for the development of poor health outcomes. While these health inequalities are well established in the literature, there is a lack of understanding of how health is both defined by First Nations peoples. This thesis describes a community-based participatory research project with First Nations girls in the Battlefords Tribal Council region. The purpose of this project was to explore the ways in which these girls negotiate different meanings of health and the body, as guided by their words and stories. The project design incorporated various methods including individual interviews, sharing circles, photovoice, and art collages. The participants were given cameras with which to take photographs that represented their understandings of health in their communities; they also completed art collages that further explored the healthy body and body image. Following the completion of the photovoice and art projects, the girls discussed their photographs and their understandings of the healthy body and body image in further detail in both individual interviews and sharing circles. This research has been informed by feminist and sociological theories of the body, which acknowledge social and historical influences on health and the body and the agency of individuals. The thesis is organized in a manuscript style format and, as such, contains three analysis chapters comprised of manuscripts either published in or submitted to academic journals. The findings of this study reveal that the girls have both insightful and holistic definitions of both the healthy body and body image. The first manuscript discusses findings of the girls’ perceptions of health as a holistic concept. The second manuscript details findings of the girls’ personal resilience showcased in their narratives of the healthy body and body image. The third and final manuscript discusses in detail the undertaking of this community-based participatory project, focusing on the strengths and challenges of this particular research project. The discussions and knowledge created by the girls make a valuable contribution to the literature by increasing our collective understanding of how the healthy body and body image are defined by First Nations girls living on-reserve. In this thesis, I argue, as guided by the words of the girls, that health needs to be understood in a more holistic manner, particularly in the design of health promotion materials, programs, and services designed for First Nations youth. This compliments recent literature that views health in a holistic manner. I also discuss the empowering potential that a community-based participatory project presents when working with First Nations youth.



Sociology, First Nations health



Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)






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