"VIA" is a preposition meaning "by way of". By way of understanding participants' lives, triumphs, struggles, and failures "from the inside out", one is better able to provide more sensitive, more complete, and more effective medical care. Using VIA to observe and analyze participants' lives can be an effective way to learn and understand any human experience. We are constantly exploring new ways in which to implement this innovative method in other disciplines and social situations. Think about ways to apply VIA to your own work. Be creative; there are few limits to what VIA can investigate. Then get in touch with us!


Because of VIA’s participant-centered focus and interdisciplinary approach, the methodology is applicable to a wide range of research topics, ranging from medical concerns to sociological or societal issues that bear on health and well-being (homelessness, teen parenting, drug abuse, violence). The population selected to participate need not be children or adolescents, but could be of any age, race, background, or nationality. All that is required is that they are able to turn on and turn off a consumer video camcorder and that they have the drive and courage to explore and share their life experiences. We welcome suggestions of topics to investigate in the future and encourage researchers in all fields to consider VIA as you design your research projects. We would be happy to train investigators in the VIA method and to provide ongoing collaboration, consultation, and support.


Visual illness narratives from VIA research projects have been incorporated into Harvard Medical School courses on respiratory pathophysiology, outpatient medical management, and patient-doctor relationships. Patient-created video has proven to be a powerful tool for grounding clinical students in the realities of patient experience and placing medical management in context with patients’ everyday lives. In collaboration with the Office of Educational Development at Harvard Medical School, we are developing interactive multimedia curricular materials so that VIA participants can help educate current and future clinicians to the realities of illness and patients’ experiences.


VIA allows children and adolescents to advocate for themselves directly rather than depending on adults to advocate for them. Video of a young person with an asthma exacerbation gasping for air or struggling to navigate through her school in a wheelchair can be worth more than a whole chart of statistics when presenting a case to policy-makers or the general public. VIA visual illness narratives have been broadcast on ABC World News Tonight, ABC Primetime, NPR, and Boston area television news.

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