The Cost of Diversity: An Analysis of Representation and Cost Barriers in Stock Photo Libraries for Health Education Materials, 2021
Chichester, Z. A., Jewell, M. A., LePrevost, C. E., & Lee, J. G. L. (2023, February 1). HEALTH PROMOTION PRACTICE.
Introduction. Ineffective health communication can drive health disparities and limit the effectiveness of interventions to reduce them. Stock photo libraries are a critical tool for developers of patient education, health education, and intervention materials. It is not clear how well stock photo libraries represent communities bearing disproportionate burdens of disease. Method. We conducted a search using five popular stock image libraries (Adobe Stock Images, Canva, Getty Images, Microsoft Office Image Library, and Pixabay) in November 2021 to evaluate diversity and representation in health-related stock photos. We searched for the following five key preventive health topics: healthy eating, exercising, quitting smoking, vaccination, and pregnancy. The images (N = 495) were coded for age, gender presentation, representation of perceived minoritized racial/ethnic identity, skin color using the Massey–Martin skin color scale, markers of high socioeconomic status (SES), and access costs. Results. The representation of perceived minoritized people, darker skin color, and inclusion of markers of high SES varied greatly by the search term and library. Images predominately portrayed young adults and adults, with limited representation of other age groups. Images in libraries with any paywall were significantly more likely to depict a person of perceived minoritized racial/ethnic identity and depict darker skin colors, and were significantly less likely to contain markers of high SES identity than images in libraries that were free to use. Discussion. We found that it costs more to develop culturally relevant health education materials for minoritized populations and groups that do not represent high SES populations. This may hinder the development of effective communication interventions.