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NewsGovernments must involve young people in decisions about their health

Governments must involve young people in decisions about their health

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

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

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

“Decision-makers have a professional and moral responsibility to ensure that any policy that affects the young people’s health actually includes youth at all stages,” said Dr Natasha Azzopardi Muscat, Director of Country Health Policies and Systems at WHO/Europe. “This means that young people should be included in the development and implementation of these health policies, regardless of 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 and adolescent health strategy. Twenty countries involved them in only 1 or 2 of these stages, and 6 did not involve young people at all.

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

Reflecting the needs of young people in the European Region

The new guide builds on surveys and consultations conducted with young people across the European Region over the past 2 years. Many of the youth involved shared their wish to be heard and eagerness to take part in decisions affecting their health and well-being.

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

  • preparing young people for their involvement;
  • engaging with young people through consultations, and how to provide feedback;
  • following up with young people, and sharing findings and action points with them.

The guide also includes practical examples of the successful involvement of young people. These include the July 2021 multistakeholder consultation to promote adolescent health and well-being in the European Region, led by WHO/Europe and the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH), together with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). As part of this consultation, young people were actively involved in running and co-facilitating topic-based sessions.

By actively involving young people in a youth-friendly environment in similar ways, decision-makers can ensure that policies about young people address their needs and perspectives.

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