Research & Engagement, 2016




HealthVoiceVision is a combined Photovoice (PV) and survey research project that links community voices/images with rigorous social science research methods to provide more insight into the health of rural communities. This project addresses an important gap in our understanding of local health ways by providing data at sub-county, community specific levels. The creation of a cost-effective and accurate means for uncovering health inequalities in rapidly changing, ethnically diverse small communities in the Midwest will lead the way to more accurate health interventions within these communities.


The HealthVoiceVision transdisciplinary team combined participatory research with traditional random spatial sampling surveys to better understand minority health disparities in rural communities. The research resulted from over 325 household surveys that were distributed and will translate into interventions, tools and data that communities can use to understand and address minority health disparities. Data from this study was analyzed and additional findings shared with the community.

Looking Past Skin: Our Common Threads is an interactive exhibit that fosters a transformative environment for scholarship using art/research to engage instructors and students in dialogue. The display was previewed in the fall of 2017 in Lexington at the Dawson County Historical Society Museum. The display was also previewed during the Spring 2018 semester on the third floor of the Nebraska History Museum.

Over 2,100 volunteer hours have been contributed to the project and over 125 high school, undergraduate, and graduate students have been involved.

From the community perspective, based on follow up conversations with our field staff, there were some challenges and strengths of the project and in doing research in the Lexington Community. In the early phases of the project, it was difficult to get the community invested in the research. Although the

Minority Health Disparities Initiative had spent the better part of two years facilitating community relationship building and gaining trust through other Lexington research projects, including YouRHealth, funded by the Rural Futures Institute, a majority of the community was still unaware of MHDI’s involvement until the mainstream news and media in Lexington reported on a community event that was held in November, 2017. The community members recommended advertising on social media and providing more opportunities, early on, for the community to learn about the project before the research is conducted. One of the strengths that was noted in the follow-up conversations was an increased sense of community and belongingness among the Somali and Hispanic communities after the data collection ended.

As part of the deliverables of this project, the MHDI put together a comprehensive report to disseminate to the Lexington community. The community report (view the report here) provides an overview of the data collected in 2017 for the Lexington community to build their public health capacity with confidence. The report and data from the project also allow our currently core faculty members to submit articles for publication and begin preparing NIH R01 and R21 grant proposals to return to Lexington and continue this vital work.

In addition to future grant proposals, a group of over 40 committed and exceptional community members in Lexington are now using this data to justify the funding for a reduced cost or free medical clinic. Several faculty members across multiple departments and colleges who are in the process of identifying research funding announcements that will continue this vital work. Ideas for future research include creating an evidence based, culturally adapted intervention that will meet the mental health needs of low-income immigrants and refugees in the Lexington Community.


The April 12, 2018, episode of Catch Up With Chuck featured project participant Gladys Godinez from Lexington, Neb.

The November 16, 2017, episode of Catch Up With Chuck featured the PI of this project, Kirk Dombrowksi.

Project Team

  • Kirk Dombrowski (PI), Department of Sociology, University of Nebraska–Lincoln
  • Kim Matthews (Co-PI), BOSR/Minority Health Disparities Initiative, University of Nebraska–Lincoln
  • Virginia Chaidez (Co-PI), Nutrition & Health Sciences, University of Nebraska–Lincoln
  • Angela Palmer Wackerly (Co-PI), Department of Communications, University of Nebraska–Lincoln
  • Jordan Soliz (Co-PI), Department of Communications, University of Nebraska–Lincoln
  • Jolene Smyth (Co-PI), Department of Sociology, University of Nebraska–Lincoln
  • Lisa Pytlik Zillig (Co-PI), Department of Psychology, University of Nebraska–Lincoln
  • Erin Poor (Co-PI), Sheldon Art Museum, University of Nebraska–Lincoln



  • Josie Rodriguez, DHHS – Office of Health Disparities & Health Equity
  • Jeremy Eschliman, Two Rivers Public Health Department
  • Rural Futures Institute
  • The Lexington Community
  • The Nebraska History Museum
  • UNL Extension
  • Dawson County Historical Society Museum
  • Humanities Nebraska
  • Minority Health Disparities Initiative
  • Office of Health Disparities & Health Equity, DHHS
  • Two Rivers Public Health Department
  • Lexington Regional Health Center





  • Dawson County Historical Society Museum Exhibition
    Looking Past Skin
    Spring Semester, 2018 | Lincoln, NE
  • Catch Up With Chuck
    Minorities in Rural
    November 16, 2017 | Lincoln, NE
  • Nebraska State Capitol Exhibit
    Ripple Effect Mapping
    November, 2017 | Lincoln, NE
  • Dawson County Historical Society Museum Exhibition
    Looking Past Skin
    Oct 14 – Nov 15, 2017 | Lexington, NE
  • Minority Health Disparities Initiative Conference
    Barriers to Healthcare for Immigrants in Rural Nebraska
    February 28, 2019 | Lincoln, NE
  • Nebraska Undergraduate Sociological Symposium
    Barriers to Healthcare for Immigrants in Rural Nebraska
    November, 2018 | Crete, NE
  • Nebraska Summer Research Symposium
    Barriers to Healthcare for Somali and Latinx Immigrants in Rural Nebraska
    August, 2018 | Lincoln, NE
  • Community of Lexington Presentation
    July, 2018 | Lexington, NE

Media Coverage


Contact: Kirk Dombrowski,