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Commission launches youth health initiative

Involving young people more actively in developing EU health policies is the aim of a new initiative by the European Commissioner for Health, Androulla Vassiliou. Last week over 200 young people, from across Europe, attended the launch conference on Youth Health in Brussels.

Throughout the conference, the young people had the opportunity to meet with policymakers and health organisations to debate key health issues, such as the consumption of alcohol, tobacco and drugs, or physical activity, mental health and environmental health. The conference was organised jointly with the European Youth Forum and accompanied by a website including a blog where young people can have their say on health.

Key note speakers included H.R.H Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands, France’s High representative for Youth Martin Hirsch, World Health Organisation’s deputy regional director for Europe Nata Menabde and President of the European Youth Forum Tine Radinja. Youth participants spoke in each session, and the conference was webstreamed.

The Youth Health initiative aims to:

- involve young people more closely in EU health policies
- strengthen youth partnership in the decision making process;
- involve other sectors across EU policy areas and at national level on the implementation of prevention programs targeted at young people;
- support Member States’ activities on the health of young people.

Commissioner Vassiliou talking to youth participants

Vasilliou brought the conference to a close, and drew on four main points of focus that had emerged. These were –

- Youth participation and empowerment;
- Inequalities and vulnerabilities;
- Communicating health messages effectively to young people;
- Mainstreaming health across wider policy areas.

The conference marks the very beginning of the process of youth involvement in health policy making, and there is still a long way to go – but it is encouraging to see the EC taking these steps.

Youth Camp on Environment and Health

The day before the conference, youth participants were part of workshops on specific themes ranging form youth and alcohol to communicating health. The Health and Environment Alliance facilitated the workshop on environment and health – focusing specifically on the dual themes of chemicals and climate change. The themes were lead by Lisette Van Vliet and Gill Erskine respectively.

The workshop was a fantastic opportunity for HEAL to become more proactively involved in issues affecting young people and to hear first hand about new initiatives taking place throughout Europe. From September, HEAL will take a more active role in youth issues, as we will welcome Alina Bezhenar from Russia who will coordinate HEAL youth participation. Alina is also a youth delegate for the World Health Organisation’s Children and Environmental Health Action Plan (CEHAPE) , and will be attending the WHO 5th ministerial conference on environment and health in Parma in March 2010.

Learn about chemicals the fun way. Read our comic book Choosing Our Future

Read more about HEAL’s campaign to put health at the centre of the Copenhagen climate negotiations



Written on 24 August 2009.

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