Youth leaders to share ideas with PAHO on improving adolescent health
The Youth Leaders Initiative, to be created by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), will bring together people under the age of 25 to seek innovative ideas and solutions to address health problems that affect adolescents and young people in the Americas.
Around 237 million young people aged 10 to 24 live in the Americas, accounting for a quarter of the region’s population. However, despite being a priority demographic, youth mortality rates have decreased slightly between 2000 and 2015.
The Youth Leaders Initiative will consist of around 20 participants, representing the various subregions, genders, ethnic groups and other segments of communities in the Americas. They will participate voluntarily and will represent the entire region rather than specific organizations or countries.
“PAHO wants to give young people a voice so that they become part of the solutions that aim to improve their health and well-being,” said PAHO Director, Carissa F. Etienne. “As young people are part of the change, it is important they participate in the development of the policies and measures that must be taken,” she added.
This announcement comes within the framework of a series of PAHO activities to commemorate International Youth Day, which is celebrated every August. In the coming months, PAHO will identify those that will take part in this initiative in order to begin the exchange of ideas. Members will also participate in campaigns on social media and other platforms to promote improvements in the health of adolescents and youth.
The health of young people in the Americas
According to “The Health of Adolescents and Youth in the Americas” report, launched this year, half of all deaths of young people aged between 10-24 in the Americas are due to homicide, road traffic fatalities and suicide, all of which are preventable. Homicide accounts for 24% of mortality, followed by road traffic fatalities at 20% and suicide at 7%.
The report shows that a significant number of young people in the region continue to suffer from poor health, with more vulnerable groups such as indigenous, Afro-descendent, LGBTQ and migrant young people being particularly impacted. Latin America and the Caribbean also has the second-highest adolescent pregnancy rate in the world.
The Youth Leaders Initiative will seek solutions aligned with the recommendations of this report in order to promote health. These recommendations are: to ensure that health programs for adolescents and young people are well-funded and involve other sectors besides health; fostering health systems that respond to youth needs; building capacity for those who work with young people; and engaging young people as agents of change, among others.