In a rapidly changing world, the power of youth leadership and advocacy cannot be underestimated. The upcoming United Nations High-Level Meeting (HLM) on Pandemic Preparedness, Prevention and Response (PPPR) and Universal Healthcare Coverage (UHC), taking place on the 20 and 21 September 2023, respectively, present a unique opportunity for young people to amplify their voices, advocate for change, and make a significant impact on global health, particularly in ending AIDS by 2030.
Universal Health Coverage (UHC) refers to the provision of affordable and high-quality healthcare to all individuals without incurring financial hardship. It is based on the principles of equity, non-discrimination and the right to health, ensuring that the most marginalised populations are also reached and covered and no one is left behind. Building equitable health systems requires giving young people a chance to be architects of their future and make sure their voices are heard.
The Importance of Youth Engagement in the High-Level Meeting on UHC and PPPR
Universal Healthcare Coverage cannot indeed be universal if young people are not actively involved in developing and implementing health policies. Many health issues affecting young people are only sometimes addressed, such as the connection between UHC and self-care. Young people who practice self-care can reduce the burden on healthcare systems and help manage their capacity more effectively, leading to better allocation of healthcare resources. Additionally, self-care can bridge gaps in access to care, encouraging independence and improving the quality of life. Despite the known benefits of healthcare for young people, this vital issue needs to be addressed and included in the zero draft of the political declaration.
Y+ Global acknowledges the HLM on UHC as a pivotal global event that unites governments, international organisations, civil society, and stakeholders to address critical health issues that are often sidelined, such as self-care. With one of our strategic pillars being Raise Our Voices, we must raise and amplify our voices to advocate for our right to live healthy and fulfilling lives to ensure the political declaration outlines the necessary commitments and strategies to advance youth priorities within universal health coverage and advance healthcare equity worldwide.
It is important for us to have a say in decisions regarding universal healthcare coverage to ensure that everyone has equal access to high-quality healthcare services, such as HIV prevention and family planning. Many young people feel left out of public healthcare services due to concerns about privacy and the ethical values of healthcare providers, especially when it comes to accessing specific HIV and SRH services. Providers often limit access based on non-medical factors such as age, marital status, gender identity and sexual orientation. Young people's meaningful involvement can directly make a difference in shaping policies that address these obstacles.“UHC High-Level Meeting is a moment to bring the work down to communities, translate the commitment into country-level actions together.”
Florence Riako AnamCo-Director at GNP+
Recently, Priscilla Ama Addo, Communications and Advocacy Graduate Trainee at Y+ Global, Florence Anam, Co-Director at GNP+ and Fitsum Lakew at WACI Health, were invited to an Aidsfonds learning session, which explored the positioning of HIV in global health and the roles communities play on UHC and PPPR. This learning session was crucial in helping Y+ Global demonstrate the commitment to raising awareness of youth-related issues regarding UHC and raising our voices, providing guidance on how and when to involve young people.“Governments during the HLM on UHC should think about the priorities of young people, in particular, looking at capacity building and strengthening to be able to lead interventions. These interventions should be inspired, designed and implemented by them. Above all, there should be ethical and meaningful engagement of young people prior, during and after the High-Level Meeting.”
Maximina JokonyaInterim Executive Director at Y+ Global
Y+ Global, along with youth advocates from around the world, has created a Youth Statement outlining their priorities for UHC and providing recommendations on how to advance youth priorities for UHC globally. This statement was developed in response to the zero drafts of the Political Declaration on the HLM on UHC. Likewise, a webinar was organized, 24 hours prior to the UHC HLM, to encourage young people to follow the proceedings of the HLM and hold their leaders accountable to the UHC commitments they made. The webinar served as a platform to disseminate and endorse the Youth Statement, which covers important youth-related issues such as self-care, that advocates are eager to have addressed during the upcoming United Nations High-Level Meeting on UHC.“Young people should be seen as active participants in achieving UHC and driving the sustainable health agenda. They must be at the forefront of co-driving and co-owning the health agenda. We must foster partnerships with them and ensure they are recognised, acknowledged and supported to play a transformative role.”
Priscilla Ama AddoCommunications and Advocacy Graduate Trainee
The High-Level Meeting provides not only young leaders with an unprecedented opportunity to shape the trajectory of global health responses but by voicing their concerns, sharing their experiences, and proposing concrete action plans, young people can contribute to creating a world where universal healthcare coverage is a reality, pandemic preparedness is robust, and the inequalities of AIDS no longer cast a shadow over our collective future.
[Young advocates at the webinar on the HLM on UHC, September 19, 2023]