About The Programme
In Canada, the personal and national costs of non-communicable diseases (NCD's) are significant, with heart disease, stroke, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes accounting for 62.7% of the country's deaths in 2011.1
Through public policy and disease prevention programming, the Young Health Programme (YHP) in Canada is working to reduce the personal and socio-economic costs of NCDs by helping to improve the physical, mental and emotional well-being of Canada's youth.
The Programme's approach is centred on the principle that in order to promote adolescent health, both outreach initiatives and policy need to meaningfully engage the voices and perspectives of youth. In keeping with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Programme is founded on the belief that young people have the right to be heard, express opinions and be involved in decisions that affect them, and that when adolescents participate in the process of improving their own health status, better long-term health outcomes are realised.
What do we want to achieve through the Programme?
With a focus on the prevention of the most common NCDs, such as type 2 diabetes, cancer and chronic respiratory disease, the Programme aims to improve the health of Canada's young people now and in the future.
- Enable professionals, mentors and peers to better identify, assess and support the physical, emotional and mental health needs of Canadian youth through evidence-based curriculum, training and resources.
- Improve youth access to timely and evidence-based information, resources and support services that can improve their physical health, strengthen their coping skills, and build emotional resilience.
- Advocate for the prioritisation of adolescent health and the inclusion of NCD prevention in local health policies and programmes.
What activities are taking place locally?
Working on its partners, the YHP Canada has co-created a number of on the ground programmes that are making a real difference for young Canadians, most notably:
- At My Best®: 4-5-6: Evaluating the effectiveness of school-based prevention programming in vulnerable communities
At My Best® is a school-based public health intervention for young people from Kindergarten through grade 6 that helps them establish the right habits to grow up healthy. Co-founded by AstraZeneca Canada and Physical and Health Education (PHE) Canada in 2008, At My Best reaches more than 100,000 Canadian youth each year, through curriculum that is focused on healthy eating, physical activity and emotional wellness. In 2015, YHP funded an evaluation of the Grade 4-5-6 At My Best curriculum in communities at greater risk of developing NCDs and with fewer community and health supports. The findings will improve the relevance and accessibility of At My Best within at-risk communities with the intention to improve its effectiveness as a public health intervention.
The Sandbox Project / Young Canadians Roundtable on Health: Understanding the health rights and responsibilities of young people
The Sandbox Project is focused on improving the health and wellbeing of children through collaboration, education and public policy work. The Young Canadians Roundtable on Health (YCRH) was created by Sandbox and its members represent youth between the ages of 15 – 20 across Canada. In 2015, YCRH launched a project to understand and build awareness of the rights and responsibilities that young people have with regards to their health. This work includes focus groups, surveys, a policy and environmental scan that informs advocacy activities. This project was developed by youth and is being delivered by youth.
In addition to the two areas of current activity, YHP Canada has also delivered a number of other projects that have been completed and continue to exist as resources for youth:
- Flex Your Head: developed with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Canada, this 12-module programme offers a series of group-based activities that promote mental health and address difficulties with depression and anxiety.
- Mind Your Mood: an easy-to-use, free mobile app that allows youth and young adults to track their moods securely on their phone.
- The Teach Resiliency Initiative: a campaign to increase awareness of the need to better prepare Canadian teachers to help their students navigate common mental and emotional concerns.
What has been achieved so far?
Since its launch in 2011, the Programme's local outreach initiatives are estimated to reach more than 120,000 young Canadians each year, with thousands more people estimated to have been reached indirectly and/or through advocacy and awareness-building activities.
Before Young Health Programme: I became interested in youth engagement and mental health initiatives; an interest I wouldn’t have found without mindyourmind and YHP Canada.
My Story: As a musician, I was invited to perform at the launch of YHP Canada. The launch acted as my platform into mindyourmind and YHP. I now work as the youth lead in partnership development at a NGO and have continued to work with youth and service providers across Ontario.
How the Young Health Programme helped me: Since 2011 I’ve worked on multiple YHP projects. I worked on mindyourmood, a smartphone mood tracking app and mytoolkit.ca, a website for service providers with information modules on stress and wellness. I got involved with mental health initiatives because of my love and interest in music. Without mindyourmind and the YHP programme, I wouldn’t have discovered my love for mental health advocacy and youth engagement. It proves that when organisations work alongside young people and listen to what they have to say, we create better resources and have better mental health outcomes. As a result of my involvement, I’ve cultivated skills in leadership and public speaking; skills I now have the confidence to take with me to future endeavours.
Before Young Health Programme: I attempted suicide at the age of 13 after battling serious bouts of anxiety and depression.
My Story: Growing up, I felt so much sadness and pain that I didn't understand, it was terrifying to the point that I didn't want to live anymore. My move to university was a catalyst to seek personal help and to help others living with mental health issues. I work with governments, youth and policy makers and for both profit and non-profit businesses.
How the Young Health Programme helped me: With the assistance of the YHP, I was able to grow as a young, health advocacy professional in ways that would not have been possible otherwise. YHP helped me view the Canadian health landscape differently; it opened my eyes to how mental health issues affect societies on a national and international level. Through YHP, I have been able to co-create a crowd funding, incubator and mentorship platform that helps young Canadians develop and raise funds for mental health projects in their communities. Young people aren’t always given the opportunity to engage meaningfully in creating the change they think will be helpful, so it was my dream to help empower young change makers across Canada. The YHP has helped my journey by providing wonderful mentorship, guidance, meaningful empowerment and networking opportunities. The programme really helped shape what I want to pursue career wise. Through my work in trying to make the world a more mentally healthy place, I’ve been described as a ‘mental health superhero’.
Before Young Health Programme: It became too much for me to handle and, slowly, I was breaking.
My Story: My mother struggled with a drug abuse problem. Despite trying to fight her addiction, she relapsed and died of an overdose aged 33. I was 8 years old at the time. I didn’t know how to react. I was upset and angry, but thought I had to move on and be strong, not only for myself but for my family too. Growing up without a mother has been difficult.
How the Young Health Programme helped me: I felt as if I was responsible for making sure everyone was okay but not myself. As I entered high school I began to feel a lot of pressure. I had a heavy course workload, was involved in community projects and was dealing with family issues. It became too much for me. My eating habits changed, my grades fell and I became closed off to the world. My friends encouraged me to get professional help and, when the opportunity arose to be part of the Flex Your Head mental health awareness programme, I jumped on board. I knew if I could educate myself on the importance of taking care of your mental health, I could take this information to my school and peers. Now I have been accepted to study social work at university and plan to work with mental health and addictions. I have taken from a negative experience to help others suffering in silence.
The Programme has partnered with several leading organisations that share the goal of improving the health and well-being of Canadian youth.
National partners and collaborators include:
- Physical and Health Education
- Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada
- The Sandbox Project
- The Young Canadians Roundtable on Health
1. Statistics Canada. Age-standardized mortality rates by selected causes, by sex (both sexes) https://www.statcan.gc.ca/tables-tableaux/sum-som/l01/csto1/health30-a-eng-htm. [updated 2014 Jan 28].