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Educ Health (Abingdon). 2018 Sep-Dec;31(3):178-183. doi: 10.4103/efh.EfH_124_17.

A picture speaks a thousand words: Using participant photography in environmental pedagogy for medical students.

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Institute of Community Medicine, Madras Medical College, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India.
Department of Community Medicine, ESIC Medical College and PGIMSR, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India.


Imparting a positive attitude toward social determinants of health among medical students has remained a challenge in medical education. This pedagogical exercise attempted to use a toxic tour with participant photography technique to impart environmental health education as part of the community medicine curriculum for medical students. In collaboration with a local environmental health nongovernmental organization, faculty from two medical colleges took a set of 13 medical students to Ennore thermal power plants as a part of a toxic tour to view the air and water pollution caused due to the operation of the power plants. The students were instructed to capture photographs of the environmental hazards using their mobile phone cameras and share them on a social media platform. Immediately after the tour, the students discussed their experiences with the faculty. Two weeks after the toxic tour, the students engaged in a focus group discussion in which they discussed their experiences, advantages, and disadvantages of the toxic tour and participant photography method and their attitudes toward environmental health. This pedagogical exercise led to the active engagement of the students with the environmental hazards in the area. They shared 70 photographs on the social media platform. In reflection, students described that they found the method very useful to actively engage with the environment, look for and find the hazards, revisit, and reflect on the photos, and use the photos to share the knowledge and experience. They also demonstrated a positive social determinants and public health attitude during the discussions. Participant photography technique during a toxic tour can impart affective domain of learning related to environmental health among medical students.


Environmental health; medical education; participant photography; toxic tour

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