Next week is Young People’s Health Focus Week. Why do we need a focus week for this? Although the years from 10-24 are amongst the healthiest in our lives, what happens during this time lays down the foundation for everything that follows. If we get it right for young people, and invest in their health during these critical years of development, then we will reap the rewards as they age. That means less pressure on the health service, happier people, and fewer long-term chronic conditions. Win win.
But issues around youth health are often bundled up with what happens for younger children or older adults. We need to think about this age as a unique developmental stage, not just an in-between, not quite child, not quite adult stage. And – most critically – we need to give young people a voice to say what matters to them. What are the key health issues that preoccupy them? What do they feel about services they use? What do they think the priorities should be? If we listen to them we are more likely to get it right.
Answers to these questions help us to focus – hence the title of the week! Young people’s Health Focus Week raises awareness of the most important health concerns of young people, alerting policy makers, and allowing a three way communication between young people, the voluntary sector, and health sector partners such as the NHS and Public Health England. So that we can get it right.
Young People’s Health Focus Week is coordinated by the Young People’s Health Partnership, which is led by the Association for Young People’s Health. This is a collaboration of six voluntary sector organisations across England from the youth and young people’s health sectors. Together with AYPH the partnership includes: Addaction, Brook, StreetGames, UK Youth and Youth Access. YPHP is part of the Voluntary Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) Health and Wellbeing Alliance (HW Alliance).
Dr Ann Hagell is Research Lead at the Association for Young People’s Health