Making Their Voices Heard: WHO/Europe Hosts First Young People and Young Professionals Forum

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Young people from across the WHO European Region gathered in a virtual session to offer their expertise on how WHO/Europe can better engage youth in its work in improving health for all across the Region.

The first Young People and Young Professionals (YPYP) Forum welcomed over 200 students, putting young people’s perspectives at the top of the European Programme of Work 2020–2025 – “United Action for Better Health in Europe”.

The YPYP Forum was planned and hosted by members of the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA), International Pharmaceutical Students’ Federation (IPSF) and European Medical Students’ Association (EMSA), in partnership with WHO/Europe.

Attendees agreed on a roadmap, shaping future engagement, which contained several recommendations, including: greater focus on funding for youth projects, the inclusion of young people in decision-making bodies and promoting intergenerational workplaces.

Bram Wagner, Chairperson of the IPSF European Regional Office, who took part in the Forum, said: “Taking part in the preparations of the YPYP Forum was a unique and valuable experience, granting a new insight into the important work that is being done at WHO/Europe. I particularly enjoyed working with other youth representatives and look forward to building on this collaboration, making sure the voices of young people in public health are heard loud and clear”.

Inês Chico Viva of IFMSA added: “The YPYP Forum is only the start of a great collaboration with WHO/Europe towards youth inclusion in the Region. An important first step, laying the foundation for a formalized agreement between the Member States and WHO/Europe towards empowering and involving youth in a meaningful way”.

Opening the Forum, Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, and Professor Mario Monti, Chair of the Pan-European Commission on Health and Sustainable Development presented a summary of findings from the Commission. Forum participants spoke directly with Professor Monti and expressed how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted their lives.

Demonstrating the Region’s continued support for and commitment to younger people, Dr Kluge said: “Young people are not only tomorrow’s leaders, they are leaders of today. It is essential that young people be provided with a seat at every table and that they are actively engaged and listened to.

“Young people need to be engaged meaningfully to be involved, not only in decisions that will impact their future, but also recognized and acknowledged for the knowledge and leadership they bring to make the decisions of today.”

Looking ahead

Through 2 breakout sessions, participants had the opportunity to reflect, discuss and recommend actions for how to recover from the pandemic, as well as how WHO/Europe can improve efforts to meaningfully engage young people moving forward.

In addition, Forum participants developed a first draft of a report of reflections on the findings of the Pan-European Commission on Health and Sustainable Development.

Following up on the Forum, a representative participant delivered a statement during the opening of the 71st session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe. This called on WHO/Europe and its 53 Member States to commit to and invest resources in delivering the Forum’s Roadmap for Engagement with Younger People in the WHO European Region, to support the work of WHO/Europe in leaving no one behind in health.

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