Back in January, Dr. Marie Hauerslev, NCD Child Past Chair and Chishuvo Mandivenga, Senior Project Coordinator, NCD Child Secretariat, attended the inaugural meetings of the WHO Youth Council in Geneva. The Youth Council is a network of 22 youth organizations from health and non-health backgrounds that will amplify the voices and experiences of young people, and leverage their expertise, energy and ideas to promote global health. The unique aspect of the Youth Council is its proximity and access to senior leadership at WHO – council members will advise and actively engage with the Director-General, other senior leaders and department focal points on youth engagement and WHO’s overall youth engagement strategy. Marie was elected to the Youth Council Steering Committee representing NCD Child and will serve in this capacity for two years.
During the four days of sessions, the Youth Council worked on key priorities and developed work plans for the focus areas including non-communicable diseases (NCDs), universal health coverage, mental health and youth leading for health, amongst other topics.
Youth Council Focus on NCDs
The NCD Working Group, of which NCD Child is a member along with Cancer Europe, Commonwealth Youth Health Network (CYHN), Young Professionals Chronic Disease Network (YP-CDN) and Youth for Road Safety (YOURS), will direct its work towards the commercial determinants of health and their role in the health outcomes of young people. Specifically, the group will raise awareness of the marketing strategies used by big industries to promote unhealthy products to young people. The planned work will be targeted towards young people and decision-makers through an informative video and will gather perspectives on the impact of industry tactics, both of which will be shared on various WHO platforms/forums including and leading up to the WHO High-level Meeting on NCDs in 2025. The proposed campaign, which was pitched to WHO senior leadership, received positive and encouraging feedback and full support from WHO to facilitate the initiative.
The Council interacted with several high level WHO officials including the Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Dr. Kerstin Vesna Petrič, WHO Executive Board Chair, Dr. Bruce Ayelward, Senior Advisor to the Director General, department directors and focal points – a positive sign of WHO’s commitment to listen to young people and prioritize youth participation in decision-making processes. Throughout the four days of meetings, the message was clear: WHO will engage youth by “supporting youth leadership, promoting partnerships and advocating for the recognition and visibility of young people” in global health. This was further emphasized at the WHO Executive Board Meetings, with calls for member states to connect with the Youth Council, and, more broadly, to include young people in their delegations.
Establishing the Youth Council is an excellent opportunity to promote inter-generational collaboration at all levels, towards achieving ‘Health For All’. It is encouraging to see the recognition that young people are receiving at this level as experts in their own right and credible partners in global health – a culmination/reflection of years of advocacy towards establishing an institutionalized platform for youth participation at WHO and amplifying the voices of young people. NCD Child looks forward to positively contributing to the Youth Council and continuing to develop innovative solutions to current global health challenges.