Empowering Caribbean Youth Voices for Health Advocacy

Igniting Change for Healthy Food Policies

by HCC

Empowering Caribbean Youth Voices for Health AdvocacyThe Healthy Caribbean Coalition (HCC) and Healthy Caribbean Youth (HCY), in partnership with the Jamaica Youth Advocacy Network (JYAN), the Heart Foundation of Jamaica (HFJ), The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Barbados (HSFB), and UNICEF Jamaica, hosted a regional youth meeting, “Caribbean Youth Voices in Health Advocacy Spaces – Healthy Food Policy Action”, from February 7th to 9th, 2024, in Bridgetown, Barbados.

This three-day health policy focused youth meeting, a first of its kind in the Caribbean, adds to the ongoing efforts of the partners to build capacity and momentum to empower the region’s youth to advocate for the implementation of Healthy Food Policies. The meeting focused on the implementation of octagonal front-of-package nutrition warning labeling and restricting the availability and marketing of unhealthy products in and around school settings.

The partners welcomed over 50 youth and young professionals from Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago.

See photos from the meeting.

The meeting featured presentations from key stakeholders across the Caribbean and the globe to spotlight the realities of our Caribbean food environments, the barriers, and lessons learned from policies implemented thus far, and the need to urgently implement healthy food policies as part of a broader effort to create healthier food environments for generations to come. Attendees also learned approaches, like the rights based advocacy approach that can be used to guide advocacy efforts. The meeting also created an opportunity to hone advocacy skills and build regional synergies on this issue.

Upon reflection, attendee and Healthy Caribbean Youth Member Simone Bishop-Matthews from Trinidad and Tobago noted:

“After a diverse and informative lineup of presenters, I feel more equipped in my advocacy efforts in promoting a healthier food environment in my local community and regionally. The scenario discussions and mapping activities helped to build relationships with fellow youth advocates and come up with sustainable solutions/recommendations”.

Healthy Caribbean Coalition/Healthy Caribbean Youth were pleased to have partnered with the youth-driven and youth-focused organisation – Jamaica Youth Advocacy network –  to execute the meeting. Policy and Advocacy Coordinator Shanielle Allen noted:

In young people lie the era-defining potential for real meaningful change and this workshop has acknowledged and fostered the strength, ability and passion of Caribbean youth. It has equipped us with the tools and knowledge we need to better manage stakeholders and interests, to advocate for healthier food environments and to hold policy makers accountable.


This workshop sharpened the advocate in every way, from honing our ability to speak to equipping us with knowledge to inform our rights-based advocacy for healthy food policies.


JYAN is happy to have partnered on this workshop and believes that from this workshop has come a renewed passion for advocacy, a reignited desire for healthy food policy, and the fuel to propel the change we need to see.

All of the partners look forward to continuing to support youth-driven advocacy. According to Danielle Walwyn, Advocacy Officer and Coordinator Healthy Caribbean Youth, Healthy Caribbean Coalition:

Children and Youth are the ones who will live with policy decisions the longest. It is imperative that they are meaningfully engaged in dialogue and action related to matters that affect them which include their food environments. The Healthy Caribbean Coalition in partnership with the Jamaica Youth Advocacy Network, the Heart Foundation of Jamaica, The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Barbados (HSFB), and UNICEF Jamaica were thrilled to have brought these young people together and look forward to sustaining the momentum as we aim to achieve healthy food policy goals across the region.

In looking forward, Barbara McGaw, Project Manager of the Global Health Advocacy Project at the Heart Foundation of Jamaica noted:

Youth play a critical role in influencing change, and as such, have a right to be involved in policymaking processes, especially for those that directly affect them. From the wealth of knowledge and tools shared during this excellent meeting, I am hopeful that our youth will have an increased voice and confidence to lead the charge in shaping the food and nutrition landscape of their countries, by demanding action from our policymakers, securing their right to help local populations and representing the interest of the wider public.

Francine Charles, Programme Manager at the Childhood Obesity Prevention Programme at the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Barbados highlights the role that youth play in the region they want to see:

Across the globe at significant junctures in history, youth have been the game changers. I believe this capacity development workshop provided our region’s youth with evidence based information; knowledgeable perspectives, practical skills and networking opportunities that were so valuable. It was clear that our youth felt more confident that they have a stronger platform for their future advocacy efforts. The Caribbean is facing an NCD battle that could gain further ground if policies and practices are not put in place speedily and effectively to create a healthier environment. It is time for our youth to let their voices be heard clearly by the region’s policymakers about the kind of future they wish to see.

Adding her support for the health advocacy efforts and the regional youth meeting, Olga Isaza, Representative, UNICEF Jamaica said that amplifying the voices of children and young people while creating a platform for them to be involved in decision-making, are key steps towards positive changes in the food environment.

This regional meeting will help the youth of the Caribbean to speak with one voice as they are empowered to take leadership positions on issues that will have far-reaching impact especially for the overall health of the people of the region,

She emphasized.