Today is International Youth Day. The current generation of 1.8 billion adolescents is the largest in history. These 1.8 billion people have a tremendous impact on all parts of the health system. Here are 10 reasons why young people can lead us to a healthier future:
- Young people are best poised to advocate for their needs in creating and implementing policies and programs to ensure youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health services are free from coercion, discrimination, and violence.
- Young people are more receptive to change and have a large stake in creating a strong future. Youth involvement facilitates positive social change, including structures, policies and procedures that are demand-driven to address the health needs of their communities and countries, now and in the future.
- Adolescents make up 1/4 of the world’s population, but were left out of the Millennium Development Goals. Young leaders can guarantee that youth and their priority to have affordable and quality healthcare are part of the post-2015 development agenda.
- According to a consultation by Restless Development with young people in 12 countries, overall, governance is the most important issue that should be addressed in the post-2015 dialogue. Strong youth leaders can increase accountability and encourage good governance for health.
- Meaningful youth participation at all levels of government results in responsive health systems that take advantage of new innovations and technologies.
- Investing in young people increases their knowledge and practical skills, strengthening their social interest, and nurturing long-term commitment to entrepreneurship and creative health solutions.
- Pregnancy is the leading cause of death for young women aged 15 to 19 worldwide. Meaningful youth participation guarantees sustainable dialogue, mutual respect and understanding of young people’s sexual and reproductive health risks and needs and a shared vision for action.
- Investing in youth leadership not only ensures that the future generation is equipped with competencies necessary for strong leadership, but enhances young people’s understanding of how to be accountable and inspiring leaders.
- Investments in young people do not stop with the individual. The World Bank conducted a study in 2008 that showed that when youth are not active participants in their society, it was found that the GDP of their countries declines, which can influence health expenditures.
- Eleven million young people are expected to enter Africa’s labor market every year for the next decade. As the most interconnected generation ever, there is great opportunity for new solutions, dynamic ideas, and a larger pool of resources to mobilize for these young people to be global health change-makers.
Namakando Simamuna is the Gender Programs Officer at Youth Vision Zambia and has worked with International Planned Parenthood Federation’s Youth Action Movement since 2009. Sarah Lindsay is a Technical Officer for Global Advocacy and Partnerships at the Leadership, Management & Governance (LMG) Project.