WHO/Europe engages young activists by launching new youth4health network to meet the health challenges of the future
26 September 2023
WHO/Europe asked youth activists and youth organizations from across Europe and Central Asia what they see as the most pressing public health challenges of their time. Many mentioned climate change and the sustainability of health systems, while others expressed concern over the scourge of non-communicable diseases and a rapidly ageing population.
“I believe the three greatest public health challenges of the next 25 years will be related to the changing climate and our destroying of ecosystems, increasing global and regional conflict, and avoidable health inequities and barriers to healthcare”, said Juliane Mirow, 22, from Germany.
“The greatest problem that humanity will face in the future is that which is posed by climate change and of course the health implications of that. Our greatest strength is technology and particularly its ability to connect people in order to solve humanity’s most pertinent issues,” said Nadhira Samsudeen, 22, from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and a member of the NGO Student MedAid London.
Simbiat Oladoja, 30, originally from Nigeria, now based in the Netherlands agrees: “The greatest public health challenge in the next 75 years will be climate change and its impact on the healthcare sector. Opportunity comes from creating climate-smart technology in the healthcare system and using advanced digital technologies.”
Responding to their concerns and to increase engagement with youth representatives on pressing public health challenges, WHO/Europe has today launched its first-ever youth network on health and well-being, the Youth4Health network. At the time of the launch, over 80 individual members and 18 youth organizations from 29 countries across Europe and Central Asia have already joined.
Admissions to the network are rolling. All youth organizations, organizations working in the youth space, Member State youth delegates, youth activists and youth parliamentarians are encouraged to apply, if they are
- Based in the WHO European Region; and
- Between the age of 10-30.
The Network is
- A key follow-up to the first Youth4Health Forum, held in 2022 in Tirana, Albania; and
- A platform for meaningful youth engagement to ensure youth participation in all areas of WHO/Europe’s work.
“Are young people being heard? Are their needs respected? Do they have access to health systems that are inclusive and equitable? We need to engage with them to discuss how we can do better. That’s why we launched the Youth4Health network and that’s why this network will make a difference. Young people are the changemakers of tomorrow, and of today. They need a seat at the table to express their opinions and ideas, and it's our job to listen to them and deliver", explained Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe.
Juliane, Simbiat and Nadhira as part of Student MedAid London are among the first members. “I joined the Youth4Health network to be part of a young community that will drive change in the WHO European Region”, says Juliane. "I want to stand up for my beliefs and contribute to just, innovative and more sustainable health systems.”
Youth engagement at WHO/Europe
Since 2021, WHO/Europe has increased efforts to engage youth as equal partners in health and well-being decision-making. Youth representatives have influenced and led tangible changes across WHO/Europe’s work:
- Learning from the lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic, WHO/Europe recognized that young people are critical agents in health emergency preparedness, response and recovery. That’s why in 2023, WHO/Europe consulted youth to develop a tool for national and local health authorities, UN agencies, youth-serving organizations and other interested organizations on how to involve youth in all stages of emergencies.
- In November 2022, young members of the pan-European Mental Health Coalition demanded that young people be supported to lead mental health system change. Since then, WHO/Europe and a youth working group have been jointly developing a framework that guides how the Coalition will achieve meaningful youth participation. The framework will be published on World Mental Health Day, 10 October 2023.
- At the 2023 Seventh Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health in Budapest, Hungary, a youth working group led youth consultations and presented a youth declaration including concrete asks to decision-makers. The European Environment and Health Process Partnership on Youth, which was launched at the conference, works with WHO/Europe on the implementation of the youth declaration, including how the youth statement will be brought to COP28.
WHO/Europe will engage the Youth4Health network across all its workstreams and is planning youth events, such as a youth event on immunization in December, as well as ensuring youth representatives are engaged in events with high-level decision-makers. Together with the network, WHO/Europe also advocates for youth representatives to be included in delegations to the 73rd session of the Regional Committee in Astana, Kazakhstan in October.
Video: What will be the greatest public health challenges & opportunities in the next 75 years? (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CffVLcjKpBE)
Launch of the Youth4Health Network https://www.who.int/europe/news-room/events/item/2023/09/25/default-calendar/launch-of-the-youth4health-network
Youth4Health initiative https://www.who.int/europe/initiatives/youth4health
73rd session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe https://www.who.int/europe/about-us/governance/regional-committee/73rd-session-of-the-who-regional-committee-for-europe
#Youth4Health – Tirana 2022 Health and Well-being Forum for Youth https://www.who.int/europe/news-room/events/item/2022/10/25/default-calendar/youth4health---tirana-2022-health-and-well-being-forum-for-youth
Bring your youth delegate to the WHO Regional Committee for Europe https://www.who.int/europe/publications/m/item/bring-your-youth-delegate-to-the-who-regional-committee-for-europe
Pan-European Mental Health Coalition https://www.who.int/europe/initiatives/the-pan-european-mental-health-coalition
Empowering youth in health emergencies: an implementation tool https://www.who.int/europe/publications/i/item/WHO-EURO-2023-7782-47550-69982
Budapest Youth Declaration 2023 https://www.who.int/europe/event/seventh-ministerial-conference-on-environment-and-health