2018 has been another great year for the Young Health Programme and our work to help young people to live longer, healthier and more productive lives. Highlights include YHP being voted global Community Investment of the Year; the launch of our global grants programme; terrific uptake of YHP-supported research; the launch of four new national programmes; and the publication of an analysis of our programmes’ effectiveness. All in all it’s been a busy and productive time and we would like to share some of these moments and events with you.
2018 is the ninth year of the YHP and has seen our three-pillar model of research, advocacy and on-the-ground programmes making real impact. 2018 was also the first year that we had entered the programme for any awards and so it was very gratifying to win Community Investment of the Year at the prestigious Responsible Business Awards – fantastic recognition for the outstanding work of many of our partners.
The award recognised our analytical and objective approach to the challenge of helping young people to address risky health behaviours - notably smoking, the harmful use of alcohol, unhealthy diet and lack of exercise. This can be seen at work with Imperial College’s research, published in The Lancet, which brought together data from 2,416 population-based studies on body mass and became the 7th most discussed journal article of any type in 2017. This paper has now been cited over 400 times, demonstrating the great appetite for high quality information in this area from researchers and policy-makers.
Our approach to fulfilling this demand was taken further with the creation of the Population Reference Bureau’s new Youth and NCDs Data Center, which pulls together risk factor data for non-communicable diseases (heart and respiratory diseases, diabetes and cancers) in young people from over 200 countries into one easy-to-access package.
We have also turned this analytical approach onto our own work with the publication of a Social Return on Investment (SROI) analysis on the cost-effectiveness of four of our national programmes. This estimated a very positive return but, perhaps more importantly, helped us to understand where the value lies - and what data we need to collect in future to track how well we are doing. We have shared our calculations to help inform the work of others in this area. We also set our work in the much wider context of youth development when we published ‘What science can do: NCD Prevention in Youth’, which highlights the issues that young people face with risk behaviours, the science behind them and how we are addressing them through the YHP.
Resolving these challenges requires innovation as well as rigour. We continue to empower and engage inspiring and inventive young people with new solutions to address these issues. In 2018 we provided scholarships to another 20 young people to attend the One Young World Forum in Den Haag in the Netherlands, where they joined more than 1,800 of their peers, established networks that will assist them in their journeys and acquired new insights and skills.
We were delighted that many young people applied for support under our new Step-Up! global grants programme which provides grants of up to $10,000 to help organisations to move their ideas or projects to the next step, whether that is testing an idea, developing software or starting to roll out a new programme. We received 76 applications from all around the world and look forward to announcing the grantees in the new year.
These grants complement our more well-established national programmes of which there are now sixteen in operation, with new launches or programmes in development. Our Brazil programme launched a new initiative in Sao Paulo where we aim to work with 40,000 young people. We also launched YHP Indonesia with a particular focus on reducing smoking and working through the village-level Posyandu Ramah Remaja health centres and schools. This tobacco focus forms the core of the new programme delivered by YHP Serbia which is working with elementary schools and social media to develop a coalition to encourage the government to enforce and extend anti-tobacco regulation.
Two further new programmes are tackling obesity. YHP Turkey has launched its second schools-based programme, focusing on improving diet and physical activity through workshops and seminars, whilst YHP Australia is taking a different approach to the healthy diet challenge, working to teach students to grow, harvest, prepare and share fresh, seasonal, delicious food through hands-on kitchen and garden classes in their schools. Four additional programmes are in development and are schedules to launch in 2019.
We were delighted to welcome Marc Dunoyer, AstraZeneca’s Chief Financial Officer to the Plan International YHP Kenya programme which has already directly reached 45,000 young people. Visiting Kibera in Nairobi, Marc said “The challenges are immense and it will take companies like ours, civil society organisations and governments to work together to overcome them. The engagement and passion of the young peer educators is what excites me about this programme. It is helping us to get the message out really broadly”.
Although the challenges remain immense, the YHP has made great progress.
NCDs are now very firmly on the global agenda – with the third High Level Meeting on the subject taking place at the United Nations in New York in September - but a huge amount remains to be done. We plan to continue to research, advocate and test with our partners in 2019 and to show what science can do to make a decisive impact on improving youth health.