Healthy Eating Active Living – Mapping Attributes using Participatory Photographic Surveys (HEAL MAPPS™)

Oregon State University Extension


Healthy Eating Active Living Mapping Attributes using Participatory Photographic Surveys (HEAL MAPPS™) is an engaged discovery program to help community stakeholders identify target audiences’ experience of place-based resources and intervene with PSE strategies to increase easy access to healthy eating and physical activity supports. HEAL MAPPS™ engages people in community‐based participatory research (CBPR) to accomplish two objectives: (1) document attributes of the community/neighborhood environment that are experienced by residents to support or hinder obesity-preventing behavioral patterns, and (2) assess local resources and readiness to implement community‐level policy, systems, and environmental strategies to prevent unhealthy weight gain/overweight and obesity among targeted youth and adult populations.  The MAPPS™ method integrates participatory photography and community mapping using global positioning system (GPS) technology, and residents’ voiced perceptions of their community place to explore, understand, and improve the culture and context for health.

Target Behavior: Healthy Eating, Physical Activity

Intervention Type: PSE Change

Intervention Reach and Adoption

HEAL MAPPS™ targets adults/heads of family households and sector partners/stakeholders serving SNAP-eligible audiences in geographically defined rural community or urban/suburban neighborhood places with a high concentration of low SES populations. The potential reach includes SNAP-eligible adult audiences and sector partners serving SNAP audiences in rural communities or urban/suburban neighborhoods in WA, OR, ID, NV, CO, NM, SD, and OH, currently, including tribal communities in SD, WA, and OR.

Setting: Community

Age: Preschool (<5 years old), Elementary School, Middle School, High School, Pregnant/Breastfeeding Women, Parents/Mothers/Fathers, Adults, Older Adults, Homeless/Food Pantry Clients

Race/Ethnicity: All, special focus on Hispanic/Latina/o and native tribal communities.


Intervention Components

HEAL MAPPS™ is a compilation of evidence-based engagement tools and mixed methods measures aggregated into a community-engaged participatory assessment and PSE intervention to change the environmental context and increase population exposure to HEAL resources. The intervention was developed to use participatory photo mapping (PPM; Dennis Jr. et al., 2009) and community readiness concepts (Sliwa et al., 2011) to document people’s lived experiences of place-based conditions. Specifically, HEAL MAPPS™ accomplishes two audience-engaged objectives: (1) document observable PSE features that support or hinder community members’ HEAL behavioral patterns, and (2) determine local resources and readiness to implement community-level PSE strategies to prevent unhealthy weight gain/overweight and obesity among residents.

Intervention Materials

HEAL MAPPS™ utilizes a train-the-trainer protocol. The initial training (3-day) facilitates the development of competencies and provides materials to engage local community audiences in participatory assessment and PSE strategy implementation. In-person trainings are provided by Oregon State University HEAL MAPPS™ trainers as workshops contracted by states (typically land-grand university and/or SNAP-Ed partners) that adopt the intervention for state-wide implementation: the workshop cost (2 trainers for 3 days) is estimated @ $7,500 plus travel; HEAL MAPPS™ Toolkits @ $150 each (1 required per training participant) are published by Oregon State University.

Evidence Summary

  • The approach is based upon the following manuscript: John DH et al. Engaging rural residents in mapping attributes using participatory photographic surveys (MAPPS™) to explain community resources and readiness to address the obesogenic environment (in review), Progress in Community Health Partnerships: Research, Education, and Action);
  • Published manuscript: John & Gunter. engAGE in Community: Using Mixed Methods to Mobilize Older People to Elucidate the Age-Friendly Attributes of Urban and Rural Places. Journal of Applied Gerontology, 2015, DOI: 10.1177/0733464814566679.
  • Published abstracts: Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 2014; (46)4, Supplement,S193); Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 2015; (47)4, Supplement,S97
  • Unpublished evaluation reports (in process in SD and OH)
  • Case studies by practitioners working in the field (Dodge Vera T, John DH. Using HEAL MAPPS to build community capacity among Latinos. Published abstract presented at Oregon Public Health Association annual conference; Corvallis, OR; October 2013) demonstrating positive effects on neighborhood school food/physical activity PSE.

Classification: Research-tested

Evaluation Indicators

Based on the SNAP-Ed Evaluation Framework, the following outcome indicators can be used to evaluate intervention progress and success.

Readiness and Capacity – Short Term (ST) Changes – Medium Term (MT) Effectiveness and Maintenance – Long Term (LT) Population Results (R)
Environmental Settings ST5, ST6, ST7 MT6
Sectors of Influence ST8 MT7, MT8, MT9, MT10, MT11


Evaluation Materials

Currently, no program evaluation tools or materials are available.

Additional Information

Website: The HEAL MAPPS™ website ( includes a Toolkit Manual Preview and Process Overview.  Intervention materials are not freely available.

Contact Person:
Deborah H. John
PI/PD GROW Healthy Kids and Communities
345 Hallie Ford Center
College of Public Health and Human Services, Oregon State University
Corvallis, OR 97331
Phone: (541) 737-1405