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Youth Spoke Up to Step Up the Pace on NCDs

This blog was written by Victoria Watson, member of NCD Child’s Governing Council as part of Global Health Council’s Member Spotlight series. Victoria has been contributing to their youth engagement work since 2015. Outside of this work, she works as a policy coordinator at Cancer Care Ontario supporting screening program design. NCD Child is a global multi-stakeholder coalition championing the rights and needs of children, adolescents, and young people living with or are at risk of developing non-communicable diseases (NCDs). NCD Child is a 2018 Global Health Council member.

For the global health community, the start of the new year signals a time of escalated efforts around the NCD target in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In 2017 we saw unprecedented collaboration among governments, multilateral organizations, and civil society to prepare for the 3rd High-level Meeting (HLM) of the UNGA on NCDs. These synergies culminated at the end of 2017 during the Second Global Alliance Forum in Sharjah, UAE.  Among the 300+ delegates included more than 20 young advocates — a step in the right direction for putting youth needs at the forefront of NCD control priority-setting for years to come.

Turning the tides for NCD prevention and control in 2018

It is recognized that youth – children, adolescents, and young people – require unique healthcare services. This creates the imperative to carve out a space for their specific needs to be addressed within NCD target related commitments, policies, and dialogue to positively impact their health outcomes. To create such a space for youth, a committee led by NCD Child, alongside representatives from NCDFREE, IFMSA, the United Nations Major Group for Children and Youth, and others recruited 20 talented, diverse participants to join the conversation in Sharjah.  The Youth Planning Committee had a clear charge: identify practical strategies to engage young people before, during, and after the Forum.  We began with a pre-forum workshop which sought to identify shared priorities and approaches for ensuring youth have a seat at the table among civil society organizations and governments.  It was a great space to hear directly from our colleagues on why young people need to be included in both the making of policy and within policy.

Following energetic discussions, negotiation, and compromise, a set of 3 priorities were put forward in the Call to Action: Youth, NCDs, & 2018.

1) Ensure universal and equitable access to high-quality, affordable, age-appropriate health care
2) Scale up financing and resources for prevention, management, and treatment of NCDs across the life-course
3) Raise awareness of children, adolescents, and young people, and sensitize government officials about the risk factors, prevalence, and impact of NCDs

The call to action and the collaboration that informed it signifies a milestone in moving youth from the periphery to the center of global dialogue. But can a milestone be transformed into sustained action? 

Sustaining Engagement

As we planned for our workshop, a question loomed over us: how can we leverage the renewed sense of enthusiasm generated by the forum to ensure our priorities and activities have sustained impact in 2018, for the UN HLM and beyond?

We did not want our call to action to be lost in a vacuum of an ongoing dialogue. We wanted to ensure our champions were given the resources and support to continue their engagement in advocating for, and creating change around NCD prevention and control. Most of all, we wanted to continue the heightened level of collaboration and action established among participants during the workshop.

The planning committee spent a lot of time thinking about sustainability, next steps, and going beyond ‘just talking.’  A simple outline helped guide our post-forum efforts – both for the participants and the many youth champions who were not in Sharjah.  Before the event, NCD Child developed Youth Voices Connect, an online community for youth advocates to share ideas on a real-time basis. Using insights gained from the online community and our own experiences, the committee identified four core principles to help us ensure the shared priorities and activities (developed in Sharjah) become a reality in 2018.

Photo credit: NCD Child

What’s Next: Taking Action

Along with shared priorities, the Call to Action outlines four key action items, linked to the shared priorities, for youth and relevant stakeholders.  The action items align with our core principles for sustained, meaningful impact.  To continue the conversation and ensure the youth component is not buried in the follow-up, we’ve encouraged our delegates to write blogs from their experience.  We want to take our communications further and help develop aligned messages for youth leaders to disseminate locally.  A policy working group is in the making – resources will be developed and reviewed by youth.  We need more young leaders to speak up about NCD financing; to help facilitate, a simple-language toolkit will be created ahead of the April financing meeting.  Finally, we need to be speaking to our government leaders more often and with more concise, effective talking points.

The committee is moving forward with four small working groups to take these ambitious activities from paper to reality. Being successful requires engaging youth stakeholders from all corners of the globe, not only those who attended the forum, and supporting such youth as we pursue meaningful, sustained action in 2018.

Photo credit: NCD Child

What can you do to support the inclusion of youth?

This commitment to engaging youth in the transformation of NCD prevention and control requires action from all sectors. Having youth voices formally recognized by NCD stakeholders and brought in to dialogue is a critical step in ensuring our needs can be represented appropriately in policy.

Here are a few ways individuals and organizations can contribute:

1) Invite young people to author blogs for your website; share the piece broadly with your network
2) Put youth on the program of every high-level side event, conference, or panel you’re hosting – engage early and ensure they are on the agenda
3) Emphasize the importance of youth inclusion in discussions with the Ministry of Health, civil society, and private sector
4) Connect with NCD Child for additional support and resources.

Advocating for Change for Adolescents

Organized by Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health, Every Woman Every Child (EWEC), and Women Deliver

September 18
2:00 PM – 4:00 PM
EWEC Hub, UN Main Building, North Lawn
New York, New York

RSVP by September 15

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Strengthening the Future of the Worlds Youth: Ensuring Health Equity

By Lanice Williams, Policy Associate, Global Health Council 

During the recent UN General Assembly, NCD Child, a global coalition of stakeholders focused on ensuring the health and well-being of children, adolescents, and youth with a particular focus on young people who are living with or at risk of developing non-communicable diseases (NCDs), hosted a side event on “The Global Strategy: Ensuring Equity for Our Adolescents.” The event was in coordination with American Academy of Pediatrics, Secretariat of NCD Child; the World Health Organization; UNICEF; and the Partnership on Maternal and Child Health (PMNCH), and focused the discussion between youth and leaders on the unique challenges that affect adolescents’ health and how we can ensure health equity.

These organizations advocate that youth involvement is vital in helping to develop sustainable positive health outcomes, which is supported by The Global Strategy for Women, Children, and Adolescent Health. The panel discussion focused on the Global Strategy’s three pillars – survive, thrive, and transform – with a particular emphasis on engaging, empowering, and expanding youth participation in preventing NCDs and premature deaths. For many years, NCDs have been viewed as a health problem that typically affects adults. However, adolescents under the age of 18 are shown to be at increasing risk of developing NCDs such as diabetes, chronic respiratory disease (i.e. asthma), and cardiovascular disease. These conditions, in turn, affect the development of a child which could lead to premature death.

Currently, there are 1.8 billion youth (those 25 and under) worldwide, and it is estimated that 13% of them will die each year from an NCD before reaching their 20th birthday. Bente Mikkelsen, Secretariat, WHO Global Coordination Mechanism on NCDs, spoke about the need to address the gaps in reducing the incidence of NCDs and its long-term effects on youth. Some of these gaps include: access to quality healthcare, interpersonal violence, sexual health, mental health, and inadequate nutrition. In order to close the gaps, global health practitioners must address ways to increase investment in adolescent health and NCDs; increase the visibility of NCDs affecting adolescents on the global agenda; and address NCD-related behavior among adolescents. Without addressing these gaps, which often start in childhood and early adolescence in many low- and middle-income countries, youth will continue to experience the long-term effects of NCDs, such as diabetes due to the lack of a nutritious diet or cancer-related deaths from tobacco.

“We need youth voices to be included in the prevention of adverse health outcomes as they are a powerful change agent in getting their peers to become more aware of behaviors that continue to put them at risk of NCDs,” stated Charity Gichobi, Training Coordinator, The Youth Banner. By creating youth advocates, there can be a break in the cycle of poor adolescent health, a reduction in stigma, increased knowledge, and demands for policy change.

All four panelists agreed that youth are an unplugged resource in beating NCDs. More programs and interventions are needed that reduce the burden of NCDs, and these should be aimed at addressing risk factors and behaviors that are developed during adolescence, which in turn leads to larger health issues as an adult. These approaches must also be integrated throughout communities, schools, and among parents and caregivers of adolescents. In conclusion, as we focus the development agenda on strengthening health systems, we must ensure adolescents and children are no longer vulnerable and that their voices are recognized. Youth and adolescents are the world’s future leaders and their input is essential.

Country Collaborations for NCDs – Bringing Together CSOs, Youth, and Government

Country Collaborations for NCDs – Bringing Together CSOs, Youth, and Government 

May 24, 2016
08:00 – 10:00 (GMT+2)

Vieux Bois Restaurant
Geneva, Switzerland

Breakfast with keynote speaker and panel presentation followed by facilitated discussion

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted in September represent the world’s shared commitment to ending poverty and hunger and to expanding equitable development universally through 2030.  Reducing the burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs, target 3.4) will be critical to achieving the broader goal of health and wellbeing.  With attention now turning to implementation at the national level, it is time to review what we know about reaching those most in need, including children and youth.  This event will explore how multi-sectoral collaborations can engage youth to improve services and access.

Sponsors include NCD Child collaboration with American Academy of Pediatrics, the International Pediatric Association, and other partners.

The side event will be by-invitation only. Individuals interested in attending can contact the NCD Child Secretariat at ncdchild@aap.org.

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Groundbreaking Global Health Event Connects Global Health Professionals

Groundbreaking Global Health Event Connects Global Health Professionals

The Future of Global Health 2014

Washington, D.C. (May 9, 2014) – The Future of Global Health 2014 (#TFGH14), the first event of its kind, brought global health students and professionals across the private and public sectors to the Hamilton Live in Washington DC for an evening of discussion on the future of global health. The event provided an open and inviting atmosphere for participants to discuss important global health issues and socialize with peers and mentors in a festive environment that included music and entertainment.

TFGH14 generated substantive and critically important conversations around key global health challenges while allowing attendees to network and connect with leading organizations working in global health.  Instead of a formal panel or plenary session, participants engaged in “Conversation hubs” throughout the evening. These mentor-led hubs included topics such as:

  • Strategies to Optimize Global Health Resources in a Changing World
  • Healthy Women, Healthy Mothers
  • Building Successful Alliances, Partnerships and Collaborations with the Global South and Each Other
  • Diseases. What’s Happening? What’s Next?
  • Building Tomorrow’s Global Health Professionals
  • Using Technology to Transform Health

More than 30 mentors, all experienced practitioners in the field of global health, facilitated these dynamic conversations, engaging students and young professionals in discussion. Mentors included well-known global health professionals including Dr. Jonathan Quick, President & CEO, MSH; Annie Toro, Senior Advisor and Lead Expert, Global Health and Nutrition Advocacy, International Medical Corps; and Kelly Saldana, Deputy Director, Office of Health, Infectious Diseases and Nutrition, Bureau for Global Health, USAID.

 Executive Director of Global Health Council, Christine Sow, noted that “TFGH14 was a Global Health event unlike any other in this sector. At GHC, we are about connecting people and organizations, so it was fantastic to host this multi-sectorial event uniting three professional generations in passionate discussion around Global Health. We are excited about the new partnerships that have emerged from the TFGH14 conversation hubs and are already looking forward to TFGH15.”

Aside from the dynamic conversations around the room, the event provided an outlet for professionals in the field to define their visions of the future of global health. A world map was the focal point of the “vision wall” where all attendees were able to express their visions, aspirations, and ideas for creating a brighter future in global health. Interesting ideas included incorporating the local perspective into global health policy; curbing the effects of climate change; advancing technology in global health; and the final push needed to eradicate Polio.

According to mentor  Jim Herrington of the Fogarty Center of the National Institutes of Health, The Future of Global Health 2014 was, “…a clever event [and] well done on all counts.” In addition, TFGH14 proved to be a success with approximately 400 attendees from Washington, DC and beyond. Global Health Council, along with key sponsors such as the Global Health Fellows Program II, the United States Agency for International Development, Management Sciences for Health, and Global Impact hosted the event in a combined effort to bring together the global health community. More information about similar GHC-led events in the future can be found at www.globalhealth.org.

About Global Health Council

Established in 1972, Global Health Council (GHC) is the leading membership organization supporting and connecting advocates, implementers and stakeholders around global health priorities worldwide. The organization is the collaborative voice of the global health community on global health issues; it convenes stakeholders around key global health priorities and actively engages key decision makers to influence health policy. Currently, Global Impact serves as the Secretariat for GHC. Learn more at www.globalhealth.org.

Follow GHC and Executive Director Christine Sow on Twitter or “Like” us on Facebook.

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