HCC Youth Advocate, Washington D.C. to New York City from Barbados and back all in 3 days. To anyone this would appear to be a daunting task but it was too good of an opportunity to pass. On January 31st, 2018, I was appointed one of the seventeen Women Deliver Young Leaders for the Caribbean region. Women Deliver boasts a total of 300 global youth leaders. From that point forward, it has been my mission to address the synergies between sexual and reproductive health and non-communicable diseases: an intersection that is often ignored. Top of my list was to approach the Healthy Caribbean Coalition (HCC) about lending my voice to NCD advocacy. One of the many rewards of becoming a youth advocate with the HCC is the chance you get to align any of your volunteering efforts with the actions of the HCC. Actions, which ultimately can shape the very fabric of an entire community.
Youth advocates with the HCC also have the enormous privilege of entering advocacy spaces to present on issues happening at home in the Caribbean region and with the 3rd UN High Level Meeting on NCDs set for September 27th 2018 (HLM3); the time to act is now. Local and international organisations are calling on the youth to lead discussions, strategize innovative solutions and to become leaders in their own right, influencing a fight against non-communicable diseases.
NCD Child and the CORE Group leaders in ‘Community Health Approaches’ invited an HCC Youth Advocate-me- to present at a half-day workshop entitled “Integration of Non-communicable Diseases into Global Health Programs: The Roadmap to Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in 2030.” In preparation for the meeting, I had the pleasure of chatting with Dr. Mychelle Farmer, Chair of the Governing Council of NCD Child, Mrs. Kiran Patel, Program Manager for Global Child Health at the American Academy of Pediatrics, and Mrs. Arti Patel Varanasi, President and CEO of Advancing Synergy. I was told beforehand that my fellow panellists would be a mesh of youth leaders all working in various areas of public health who would be assigned individual topics. My fellow panellists included- Ms. Ishu Kataria, Senior Researcher at RTI International, Mr. Vince Blaser, Director at Frontline Health Workers Coalition and Ms. Maia Olsen, Program Manager at NCD Synergies and Partners in Health.
I cleared my calendar, and got down to work, days before I was slated to present on my topic- Youth leaders advocating at local and national levels for improved NCDs prevention and control. On the day, I touched on numerous points including the need for youth advocacy to strengthen physical and social environments for health activities and its promotion across the region not excluding the unique needs of women in our communities. A major component of my presentation focused on the improvements we need for Caribbean youth advocacy to occur on a large scale. I discussed strategies such as the establishment of a regional chapter of the Young Professionals Chronic Disease Network, the development of an online resource hub for regional youth policies and youth advocacy toolkits that are culturally significant. I underscored the importance of Workplace Wellness programmes that engage young employees as Wellness Advocates and a stringent need for parental involvement in meaningful extra-curricular activities for Young Adults so that we may finally begin to nurture a culture of volunteerism. Other strategies spoke to involving young persons on a policy level; I addressed the need for us as young persons to speak about removing barriers to the HPV vaccine and designing interventions that look at increasing the rate of cervical cancer screening. Finally, I voiced a concern about the lack of a regional, disaster -response health system and stressed the need for training in data collection for humanitarian emergencies.
What occurred immediately after the workshop was a mix of networking both in D.C and in New York City at the Barbados Permanent Mission to the United Nations and the NCD Alliance offices. One of the key goals of my trip was to share information with a Permanent Mission of Barbados to the United Nations in New York. At the Mission, I met with Deputy Permanent Representative Mrs. Juliette Babb-Riley. So what did I share? Work from the CORE workshop- this included a suggested list of key future actions for better NCD prevention and control- as well as sharing the HCC Advocacy Priorities for the HLM3. I had the pleasure of meeting Priya Kanayson, Senior Advocacy Officer at the NCD Alliance, who was brilliant and gave us excellent insight into key actions we need to take over the next few months leading up to the HLM3.
I returned to Barbados aware of the trip’s small accomplishments; I also returned with an awareness about the additional work needed in preparation for the HLM3 on September 27th. The HCC invites everyone to play a part, have your say by signing our Childhood Obesity Prevention Call to Action, rate your school on the My Healthy Caribbean Schools page (insert link) or simply offer your time to the HCC by becoming a youth advocate, volunteer or intern.
Let us get to work!