Cleveland Community Voices on Health Disparities and Genetic Research

Project Directors: Patricia Marshall, PhD and Aaron Goldenberg, PhD
Project Manager:  Laura Morello
Research Staff:  Sanjur Brooks, Chris Hartmann, Kari Colón-Zimmermann

Department of Bioethics, Case Western Reserve University

The “Community Voices Project” is a community-engaged study to assess knowledge, belief, and attitudes about genetics, genetic research, and health inequalities among underserved communities in Cleveland. We interviewed over 120 individuals and hosted 13 focus groups with African-American, Hispanic, and White individuals in the neighborhoods of Glenville, Ohio City, and Detroit Shoreway. We were able to achieve this success by collaborating with community organizations. These organizations helped us to identify strengths and address challenges in order to better address the concerns of the community.

Community Voices of Youth and Elders:  A Perspective on Health and Genetics through Photo Documentation:
An important goal of our study has been to work with our community collaborators in developing projects that promote knowledge of health, genetics, and family history. In this photo documentation project, we connected with youth affiliated with Esperanza and seniors affiliated with Helen S. Brown Center Center to document their reflections on health, genetics, and genetic research through photography. Today, they share their images with you in the hope they will generate questions for you about the health of your family and your community. We believe that families and communities have a strong influence on the health of future generations. We hope that this project and these photographs encourage conversations between family members and community members as an innovative way to increase awareness of health, genetics, and genetic research.

Pictures taken by Young People

Alexis Arroyo: Relaxation

This picture shows how people in the community love to drink alcohol and how they say that alcohol relaxed them in a hard day of work. In this picture, my cousin is shown relaxing in my backyard having a drink of beer. I ask my cousin why he drinks so much alcohol after work. He tells me that alcohol relaxes him and he drinks to have fun, but he tells me that I should not drink because it’s bad for my health at this age.

Angelica Southwick: Love, Family and Happiness

This star means family bonding.  I just moved in with my sister and and it reminded me of seeing my nieces and being together.

Brenda Abreu: Endless Solution

Day by day, this is reality, what people go through, pills and pills, bottles of pills. It’s just an endless amount of prescription pills; it’s just an endless solution.

Willy Colón: Untitled

This shows all the things that need to change in Cleveland. All the littering and the trash everywhere that isn't getting this city anywhere but making it look like a trash dump.

Michael De Jesus: Problemas de Salud (Health Problems)

Muchas de los imágenes que tomé en este día fueron de personas que tenían problemas, ya sean con problemas de salud o con problemas de drogas.  Me da mucha lastimá decir que estuve trabajando con personas que tienen problemas con las drogas porque  es una pena que mucha de de nuestros jóvenes estan afectada y la mayoría de los adultos también están en estos malos pasos.
Many of the images that I took that day were from people that had problems, be it health problems or drug problems. It saddens me to say that I worked with persons that have problems with drugs. It is a shame that many of our youth are affected and that the majority of adults are also following the wrong steps.

Digna Lewis: Untitled

My grandmother tests her insulin every day. Diabetes is really big in my family. I worry that I might get diabetes because of the genetics and family history.

Lupe: Struggling Beauty

These flowers are growing in different directions, inside and out of the gate.  But when I look at it, I see the flowers are trying to escape from the inside of the gate.  It captured my attention because this is related to our life.  Some people are constantly trying to bring out the beauty of our community, which may seem ugly like the fence and bad to others.


Sandy Melendez: When Healthy Families are Sad

This photo shows love.  It shows a mom feeling sad for her son when he was sick; but it also shows that she’s always there for him as his mother.

Keith Padilla: Out of the Ordinary

I saw the dominoes in a new way, out of the ordinary, and each one represented a person and how sick they are.  The higher in dots, the sicker one is, and lower in dots, the healthier one can be. (Taken at the Hispanic Senior Center)

José Peña: La Pareja Común (A Common Couple)

En esta foto muestro una pareja joven fumando. Como se ven no dan la mejor impresión sentados en el parque fumando dañando su salud y dañando el ambiente y la salud de los demás ya que si estoy al lado de ellos es como si también estuviera fumando.
In this photo, I am showing a young couple smoking. As one can see they don’t give the best impression sitting on the park bench damaging their health and that of the environment and also that of the rest of us for if I am by them it would be as if I were smoking also.

Jaime Tirado: The Pathway

We are all on different paths. Even though some of our paths do cross, we decide our brighter future. The light reminds us that God is watching us.

Luis Toro: Untitled

My stepdad has diabetes, and smoking doesn’t help him.  Because of all the economic and family stress in his life, he keeps relapsing and smoking helps him.

Pictures Taken by Seniors


Mitchell Blanton: Survival

Some things thrive in the cold weather, and some things don’t.  Relating to health and genetics, I believe it’s environment. (This picture was taken at the northern border of Forest Hills Park in East Cleveland.)


Bertha Idom: Three Generations

This photo reflects a family that is together and they desire to be together. There is love. You can see the love the grandfather has for his daughter and his grandchildren. I’ve known them for over 30 years and I consider them to be friends and they are friends to me.  We worship and pray together every Sunday. When I need someone to help me, I can call them. We are closely connected.


Marie Moore: Breakfast: Signs of the Times

Menu: Toast, Coffee, Cereal, Orange Juice Plus: 3 Blood Pressure Pills; 2 Diabetes Pills; 1 Cholesterol Pill; 1 Calcium & Vitamin D Pill; 1 Aspirin. Bon Appetit!


Willa Smith: Praise the Lord!

The Lord is my strength and my health!


Earlene Starks-Marshall: People in Motion

Diabetes, high-blood pressure, and high cholesterol are all connected to exercise.  I teach exercise because I take care of my health and I help others take care of their health. I feel a certain satisfaction by volunteering to teach knowing that I am helping others.


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