During the summer of 2015, Strong Women, Strong Girls (SWSG) and researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (HSPH) established a community-academic partnership to promote the mental health and well-being of SWSG girls. Our first project together was called “My Health, My Story,” which aimed to understand the mental health and body image experiences of girls from diverse racial/ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. We chose to focus our efforts on mental health and body image because research shows that they are closely related to self-esteem and socio-emotional well-being, two of SWSG’s focus areas.
During the Spring of 2016, we utilized the principles of community-based participatory research, or CBPR, to conduct 6 focus groups with SWSG girls. We chose to use a CBPR approach to guide our research efforts because it allows community members and academic researchers alike to contribute expertise, participate in decision-making, and share in the ownership of the research. Focus groups were facilitated by SWSG staff, HSPH researchers, and SWSG college mentors, who were trained in CBPR and focus group facilitation.
Currently, our team is analyzing the focus groups to identify key themes, identifying ways to share our research findings with the broader SWSG community, preparing manuscripts for publication in peer-reviewed publications, and exploring possibilities for future CBPR projects. Our ultimate goal is to support programming that helps promote the mental health and body image of SWSG girls and contribute to the public health literature in these areas.
If you’re interested in learning more about “My Health, My Story,” please click here to access a factsheet that outlines our preliminary research. You can also check out some of the links below for more general information about topics like body image and mental health:

The CBPR team includes, left to right in the photo below: Ayesha McAdams-Mahmoud (HSPH), Dr. Madina Agénor (HSPH, co-lead), Sarah Kacevich (current SWSG co-lead), Kenyora Johnson (former SWSG co-lead), Shreya Bandhari (former SWSG intern), Cherline Arnoux (former SWSG intern), Farah Qureshi (HSPH), Jahnavi Curlin (not pictured).
CBPR Team Photo Summer 2016