Youth engagement is key to building a more inclusive and sustainable future. It empowers youth in their own development. Young people are unafraid to challenge the status quo and raise their voices on topics of importance to them, such as:
- the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic;
- mental health; and
- sexual and reproductive health.
It’s time they had a real say in health decision-making at all levels.
To continue efforts in creating spaces for youth engagement, WHO/Europe, in partnership with the Albanian Ministry of Health and Social Protection, the Albanian Office of the Minister of State for Youth and Children, the Municipality of Tirana and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), is inviting youth from across the WHO European Region to a forum held in the 2022 European Youth Capital – Tirana, Albania.
The forum will bring together youth, public health experts and other partners to provide an opportunity
- for young people to lead and discuss health issues that matter to them;
- to mobilize commitment to youth engagement at regional, national and subnational levels;
- to bring attention to issues involving youth health and well-being in the Region, including the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic; and
- to agree on the design of WHO/Europe’s youth engagement going forward, laying the foundation for WHO/Europe’s youth network #Youth4Health.
COVID-19 and youth health
Young people have been especially affected during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- School-aged children and university students have had their education disrupted and have been unable to see their friends.
- Young people leaving education have struggled to find work because of the economic impact of the pandemic.
- Some young people have been exposed to domestic violence or sexual abuse during times when they could not leave home.
- Many have experienced anxiety and loneliness.
- In the course of the pandemic, it has become clear that young people can be infected and greatly affected by COVID-19 in all areas of life. This includes post COVID-19 conditions such as long COVID, about which more research is needed.
- Vaccine uptake among young people remains relatively low in low-, lower-middle- and upper-middle-income countries. Therefore, it is crucial that young people are listened to and included in efforts to protect communities.
- Importantly, today’s youth will face the long-term economic and social consequences of the pandemic.
Young people’s response to the pandemic shows their capacity and ability to lead and drive change. As the leaders of tomorrow, they need to be part of the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic to build resilience.
WHO/Europe’s youth initiative – a special initiative of the WHO Regional Director for Europe
- WHO/Europe’s youth initiative kicked off in 2021.
- The initiative aims to amplify and embed youth voices and perspectives in all areas of WHO/Europe’s work.
In September 2021 WHO Regional Director for Europe Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge launched WHO/Europe’s youth initiative at the WHO Young People and Young Professionals Forum, a pre-event of the 71st session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe.
At the youth forum in Tirana, WHO/Europe is continuing its youth engagement on the road to building a youth network.