HEALth MAPPS™ for Healthy Eating Active Living – Mapping Assets using Participatory Photographic Surveys

Oregon State University Extension


HEALth MAPPSis a SNAP-Ed facilitated, community-engaged discovery and learning intervention. HEALth MAPPS™ mobilizes community sectors and residential stakeholders to identify target audiences’ lived experience of place-based resources, and to intervene with PSE strategies to increase easy access to healthy eating and physical activity supports. HEALth MAPPS™ engages people in participatory action research (PAR) to accomplish two objectives: (1) document community/neighborhood environmental assets that residents experience as helping or hindering their healthy eating and physical activity behaviors and patterns and (2) assess community/neighborhood resources and readiness to plan and implement local 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’s socio-environmental determinants 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

HEALth MAPPS™ targets adult/head of family households residents 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 served by adopting organization in OR, WA, ID, NV, CO, NM, OH, SD, and ND (currently) including tribal communities in OR, WA, SD, and ND.

Setting: Community

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

Race/Ethnicity: All, special focus on Hispanic/Latino and Native American populations.

Intervention Components

HEALth MAPPS™ is a compilation of evidence-based engagement and mixed methods evaluation tools aggregated into a community-engaged participatory evaluation 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 conditions in the place they live, grow, and age. Specifically, HEALth 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

HEALth MAPPS™ utilizes a train-the-trainer protocol. The initial training (20-hour) facilitates the development of competencies and provides materials for the adopting organization to engage local community audiences in participatory assessment and PSE strategy implementation. Onsite, online, and hybrid trainings are provided by Oregon State University HEALth MAPPS™ trainers as workshops contracted by organizational adopters (typically land-grand university Extensions and/or SNAP-Ed agencies) that purchase the intervention and evaluation tool for state-wide implementation: the onsite workshop cost (2 trainers for 3 days) is estimated @ $15,000 plus travel; HEALth MAPPS™ Toolkits @ $150 each (1 required per training participant) are published by Oregon State University.

Intervention Costs

Additional cost information available by consultation.

Costs for the HEALth MAPPS Toolkit and Training for organizational adopters vary by adopter location, mode of delivery (onsite, online, or hybrid) and needs, including technical support during implementation and location.

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
  • Published evaluation reportsJensen et al. (2019)Journal of Extension57(5), #5FEA1; Lindsay et al. (2019). Journal of Rural Social Sciences34(2), Article 4.
  • 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 LT5, LT6, LT7, LT8, LT9, LT10, LT11
Sectors of Influence ST8 MT7, MT8, MT9, MT10, MT11


Evaluation Materials

HEALth MAPPS™ integrates intervention with evaluation and can be used as a repeated measure on a 3 year cycle to evaluate change over time. 

Additional Information

Website: OSU Extension provides HEALth MAPPS™ information, Toolkit Manual preview and process, available at: Intervention materials are not freely available.

Contact Person:
Deborah H. John, Program Director
Professor and Extension Specialist for Health Equitable Communities
College of Public Health and Human Services, Oregon State University
Corvallis, OR 97331
Phone: (541) 737-1405