Healthy Caribbean Youth Engage in 2023 Global Summit for Adolescent Well-Being Lead Up. With a Global Summit for Adolescent Well-being planned for 2023, the World Health Organization (WHO) alongside other global partners prepared a working document entitled Investing in our future: A comprehensive agenda for the health and well-being of children and adolescents and launched a global Call to Action. Seeking to ascertain the policy and programming implications of these initiatives, the WHO held series of regional multi-stakeholder consultations in May and June 2021. Healthy Caribbean Youth, the youth arm of Health Caribbean Coalition was invited to take part alongside representatives of Member States, United Nations agencies, civil society, academia, youth and other key stakeholders from the Americas.
Represented by Eden Augustus, Kerrie Barker, Alaina Gomes, and Launée Richards, the Healthy Caribbean Youth members shared their thoughts, perspectives and considerations on the prioritisation of and investment in adolescent well-being in the Caribbean and wider world, a key objective of the Healthy Caribbean Coalition.
As one of the target areas of the Millennium Development Goals, there have been significant reductions in global child mortality (under 5 years) since the late 20th century but unfortunately declines in adolescent mortality (10-19 years) have not been as significant. Recognising this and the biological, socioeconomic, and environmental determinants that affect health and well-being, it became clear that a strategic shift was needed in the approach to achieving children’s right to health as defined in Article 24 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child; we need more than for children to simply survive until their 5th birthdays, but for them to survive, thrive and transform in the environments in which they grow up, before entering into adulthood.
With children and adolescents in the first two decades of life comprising approximately one-third of the Caribbean’s population it was a great opportunity to have HCY members present at these consultations to share their perspectives. Attendees participated in group discussions and gave feedback on the proposed global framework for adolescent health, which highlighted the following six domains of childhood and adolescent well-being:
- Good health;
- Adequate nutrition;
- Responsive relationships and connectedness;
- Security, safety and a supportive clean environment;
- Opportunities for learning and education; and
- Realisation of personal autonomy and resilience
From the consultations a few key themes emerged. Firstly, the importance of the life course approach in achieving these objectives was highlighted. As situations and events early in life influence health and development down the line, interventions need to be delivered throughout the life course for maximum impact. It is important that the six domains be delivered all throughout childhood and adolescence in a form that is most suitable for the developmental stage of the child, recognising that they have unique needs which will change and develop as they age.
The second key theme discussed was the need for multi-sectoral approaches. Health and well-being are supported by enabling environments and it is crucial that any intervention be backed by strong supportive actions, laws, policies and regulations. From the discussions, it was suggested that we go even beyond this to include all stakeholders, most importantly the youth who will be the ones affected; youth should be actively involved at all stages in the design, implementation and monitoring of policies and programmes that affect. Ultimately, a whole-of-government, whole-of-society approach that prioritises the meaningful involvement of youth is paramount if we are to meet targets.
Though quite a comprehensive working document, the break-out rooms and discussions held over the course of the two days showed that there were still some elements that were missing or or that required more focus in the framework. These included the need to focus on sexual and reproductive health within the six domains, as a necessary part of the health and well-being of the youth, especially within the first 20 years of life. The need for more evidence-based research practices, and research in general, within a Caribbean context was also mentioned, as it would allow various personnel to be trained in practices and initiatives that have been proven to work within the region.
Healthy Caribbean Youth were honored to participate in such meaningful dialogue.
Read about their experiences below:
Public Health Doctoral Candidate with the George Alleyne Chronic Disease Research Centre, The University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus, and Nutritionist
I was completely honoured to be part of a conversation focused on such an important topic. Some of the key points that struck me stemmed from the presentation about “health during the first two decades of life from a Life Course Perspective”. The presenter highlighted that fostering human development in a shifting public health landscape requires a renewed public health model – one that emphasizes our actions or inactions. I think this is imperative to consider since our needs as humans are evolving, and that much focus is placed on our actions, but not what can be done to improve such. The discussion had in the working group also brought to light a phrase “nothing for us without us”. I now understand that this is a motto often used to advocate for persons with intellectual disabilities, however it can be applied throughout. I believe that any framework / intervention / policy should consider persons that will be affected, a participatory model or approach should be used. My major contribution to the session revolved around the importance of health surveillance – monitoring and evaluation which includes children / adolescents and the need for child / adolescent friendly research, with culture / setting appropriate tools to conduct such, since a major issue faced in the Caribbean and Small Island Developing States is the fact that most of the validated data collection tools are UK or US based
Antigua and Barbuda
The two-day PAHO/WHO/UNICEF Virtual Consultation focused on some of the most important years in a human being’s life- the first two decades of life. The documents provided prior to, and the invigorating discussions held during the consultation, focused on a comprehensive working document framework that would hopefully assist various national, regional, and international stakeholders in effectively creating long-lasting initiatives. These initiatives would target various domains- good health, adequate nutrition, responsive relationships and connectedness, opportunities for learning and education, security, safety, and a supportive environment, and the realization of personal autonomy and resilience- considered to be necessary for the holistic well-being of a person. Though mental health was not listed as a main domain, but rather as a component of good health to be targeted, I am pleased to see that emphasis is being placed on providing mental healthcare for caregivers, as well as the youth themselves, by way of providing psychosocial interventions
Secondary School Physical Education Teacher
Antigua and Barbuda
Presenters underscored that well-being is multidimensional and further highlighted that digital technologies provide both opportunities and threats to adolescents well-being. During the COVID era there has been a big push to further incorporate Integrated Computer Technology (ICT) into our lives. The presenter’s view was therefore thought provoking as it caused me to reflect on whether ICT had in fact affected my wellbeing.
Exploring the framework for the first 20 years of life in working groups allowed us to delve even deeper into the framework. The framework focused quite heavily on a child self-actualizing rather than a child having their basic needs met. This perspective was refreshing as it looked at children becoming their best selves; the life course approach reinforced that development is dependant on the earlier stages. The lack of data collection in the Caribbean continues to be an issue which is further compounded by the lack of culturally and age appropriate data collection instruments.
The periods of discussion were fraught with insightful views and solution-focused contributions. The consultation demonstrated the importance of youth input in youth-focused initiatives
Healthy Caribbean Youth Engage in 2023 Global Summit for Adolescent Well-Being Lead Up, written by Kerrie Barker, HCC Project Assistant and a member of Healthy Caribbean Youth (HCY)