About From War to Home
Veterans returning from deployments in support of Operations Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Iraqi Freedom (OIF) face complex challenges in making the transition to post-deployment life. The VA is uniquely positioned to meet the health care needs of veterans and support successful reintegration. However, many OEF/OIF veterans lack a sense of connection with the VA, and in return, VA leadership, providers and staff may have difficulty relating to the deployment and post-deployment experiences of combat veterans. Innovative approaches are needed to help bridge these gaps in knowledge and understanding and to promote an environment of patient-centered care for OEF/OIF Veterans at VA.
Photovoice is participatory research tool that empowers individuals to convey their experiences, perspectives, and needs through visual images and first person narratives. This project aimed to explore the use of the Photovoice method with the OEF/OIF veteran population.
Veterans were given cameras and asked to take photographs of their daily lives and contribute photos from their personal collections to address 4 main questions:
- What impact does a deployment have on your physical, mental, and emotional health?
- What challenges do you face in making the transition home from deployment?
- What barriers and facilitators do you face when it comes to accessing healthcare and other resources?
- Where do you find strength and support to move forward?
Veterans then met individually with a member of the project team to review their photographs and describe the meaning behind each image. Collaboratively, the project team and participants developed an exhibit of veterans’ photos and stories entitled From War to Home: Through the Veteran’s Lens to convey veterans’ experiences, perspectives, and needs.
From War to Home was first installed at the Philadelphia VA Medical Center in November 2012. The exhibit has since traveled to other locations both within and outside of the VA, including the University of Pennsylvania and the Wilkes-Barre VA Medical Center. In addition to the exhibit, the principal investigator, Dr. Gala True, and veteran participants have given multiple presentations to audiences of primary care staff, social work students, nursing students, healthcare providers, and others regarding the impact of military service and deployment on veterans’ health, as well as veterans’ experiences of care.
From War to Home provides a blueprint for conducting community-engaged research with a variety of veteran populations, as well as opening up numerous pathways for improving care of OEF/OIF Veterans.