WHO/Europe urges governments to include young people in decisions about their health

WHO/Europe has released new guidance on how to involve adolescents and young people in decision-making about their health.

The new guide calls on governments and decision-makers to listen to and understand the perspectives, experiences and needs of young people when developing policies or decisions affecting their health. These may include, for example, policies that are part of a national child and adolescent health strategy, or those related to youth and adolescent health services.

“Policymakers have a professional and moral responsibility to ensure that any policy that affects young people’s health truly includes young people at all stages,” said Dr Natasha Azzopardi Muscat, Country Health Policy and Systems Director at WHO/Europe. “This means that young people must be included in the development and implementation of these health policies, whether they impact their health at school, in their communities or at national and international levels.”

In a survey conducted in 2020, WHO/Europe found that only 8 countries in the European Region involved children in the review, development and implementation of a child health strategy and the teenager. Twenty countries involved them in only 1 or 2 of these steps, and 6 did not involve young people at all.

“Youth engagement has the potential to provide important and sometimes unexpected insights into the challenges young people face,” explained Dr Azzopardi Muscat. “And it’s clear that we have room for improvement.”

Reflecting the needs of young people in the European Region

The new guide is based on surveys and consultations with young people across the European Region over the past two years. Many young people involved shared their desire to be heard and their willingness to participate in decisions affecting their health and well-being.

The new guide supports governments and local decision makers with advice on:

  • prepare young people for their commitment;
  • engaging with young people through consultations and how to provide feedback;
  • follow the young people and share with them the results and action points.

The guide also includes concrete examples of successful youth involvement. These include the July 2021 multi-stakeholder consultation to promote adolescent health and well-being in the European Region, led by WHO/Europe and the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and (PMNCH), in collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the United Nations population (UNFPA). As part of this consultation, young people were actively involved in the facilitation and co-facilitation of thematic sessions.

By actively involving young people in a youth-friendly environment in the same way, policy makers can ensure that policies affecting young people respond to their needs and perspectives.

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