The Future of Chronic Diseases Through the Eyes of Youth
Tuesday, March 24, 2015
Young people make up nearly half of the world’s population. And even though global health policy-making impacts them — think vaccinations, reproductive health or preventative care — young people far too often don’t have a say in that process.
On non-communicable or chronic diseases, several youth advocacy groups are pushing to change that.
Currently, the debate on NCD policy is playing out in exclusive circles, including government ministries and institutions like the World Health Organization, World Bank and other United Nations agencies. Young people often encounter barriers, rather than open doors, when trying to access these circles; as a result, NCD policy — especially around prevention — is developed for youth, not with youth.
“Traditionally, these organizations will develop ideas and then push them onto young people, seeing millennials and younger generations as less experienced or knowledgeable,” suggested Allesandro Demaio, a global health fellow at Harvard Medical School and co-founder of NCDFREE, a social movement committed to ending preventable deaths from NCDs.
What’s the alternative?
“Don’t engage — include,” Demaio said.
Whether through participation in boards of directors, advisory committees or strategy sessions, young people have something to offer, he added: “They don’t have [fewer] skills, they have different but complementary and essential skills.”
When decision-making bodies include young people from the beginning, the result is often more effective policy. It’s a core tenant of global health and international development: Engage the people that will be affected by a policy or program. If that doesn’t happen at the policy-level, the likelihood of failure may grow.
- Health Care