Public health campaigns can be dry and hard to understand. Covering complex issues and evidence, and packaging it for a broad audience, they must often strike a near impossible balance of being catchy and informative at the same time.
As in so many other cases, young people lead the way forward. Many youth organizations use their social media channels to inform their peers about health topics, often developing innovative ideas. Using podcasts, social media challenges or short videos, they make public health issues accessible and often fun, as these examples show:
- In the run up to World Blood Donor Day 2023, members of the International Pharmaceutical Students’ Federation across Europe challenged their friends to donate blood, post a selfie of it with a special social media filter, and tag their friends. By doing so, the students demonstrated simple actions one can take to increase awareness and call for more life-saving blood donations in the Region.
- The student-led podcast “All things mental health” from the United Kingdom explores diverse issues affecting young people’s mental health and well-being. Listened to now in 19 countries, the podcast makes complex mental health topics accessible. Anna from the team explains that the aim is to encourage listeners “to be curious about their mental health and well-being”.
- On International Day of Sign Languages, members of the European Medical Students’ Association (EMSA) launched a social media quiz featuring young people performing pop songs in international sign language. Viewers had to challenge themselves and select which song they saw performed in the short videos. With this campaign, EMSA students raised awareness on accessibility and inclusiveness.
International Youth Day 2023
International Youth Day is marked every year on 12 August to raise the profile of youth issues and celebrate young people’s contributions to societies. This year, WHO/Europe highlights youth-led public health campaigns, such as the above examples, showcasing creative, innovative ways of communicating to young people for better health for all. In doing so, WHO/Europe joins the United Nations Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth in their #YouthLead campaign, which celebrates young people’s resilience, resourcefulness and leadership when it comes to creating a better world for all.
The largest generation of young people in history
The world currently has the largest generation of young people in history:
- There are currently 1.9 billion young people in the world.
- In the WHO European Region, 1 in 3 people is under 30.
- In the 4 central Asian countries of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, this share is even larger with every second person being under 30.
WHO/Europe’s investment in youth engagement
Acknowledging the importance of young people’s leadership and meaningful youth engagement, Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, kick started Youth4Health as a WHO/Europe special initiative in 2021. The initiative aims to amplify and embed youth voices and perspectives into all areas of the work WHO/Europe.
Following up on the commitments of the first Youth4Health forum in Tirana, Albania, in 2022, where over 500 young people from across the Region came together, WHO/Europe will launch its new youth network on 25 September 2023 at a side-event to the 73rd session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe. Youth activists and youth organizations who are passionate about health and well-being from across Europe and central Asia are encouraged to apply to become members of the network. The network launch will be livestreamed on WHO/Europe’s Facebook and X (formerly known as Twitter) channels on 25 September, at 10.00–11.30 Central European Summer Time.