In 2020 we received a record number of applications from small, youth-focused, non-profit organisations for Step Up! grants – the YHP’s global grants programme focused on the prevention of non-communicable diseases. Over the next year, twenty organisations will be testing innovative and creative approaches to improve youth health and well-being all around the world.
With much of the world still in the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic, the focus of many projects has been largely on finding digital creative ways of engaging young people with health promotion information and messages. Even when the pandemic eases and direct contact can resume, some of these approaches are likely still to be effective at reaching even more young people and extending the reach of initiatives beyond their local community.
We are supporting content development initiatives from organisations such as Moldova’s AO Centrul de Informare și Resurse Pro Bono, which is establishing a media hub for youth health to enable them to create video, graphic and photo materials on non-communicable diseases and the importance of a healthy lifestyle. In Uganda, the Rose Academies Creative Arts Team is developing a social media awareness campaign about the dangers of alcoholic drinking through the use of music and videos. Also in Uganda, the Network for Community Development is working with students to create short videos for online platforms to raise awareness on the dangers of excessive alcohol intake on health.
In Malawi, Extra-Think Innovations are taking a blended approach by setting up Youth Connect Teams through Facebook, WhatsApp and other media, whilst in neighbouring Zambia Children for Health are taking ideas straight out of Silicon Valley and applying them to a small rural community. They will be using the SuperBetter approach as pioneered by Jane McGonigal, a computer games designer, to unlock the creativity and positivity of youth to overcome the challenges that they face. The Novel Association for Youth Advocacy in Nigeria is integrating fun and games in a different way to increase engagement in reducing drug dependency.
Photo caption: Extra-Think Innovations (Malawi)
The YHP has always focused on supporting some of the most marginalised communities and this has continued with our latest grantees. In the Philippines we are supporting Youth Voices Count to help young LGBTQI+ people to build their leadership, mentorship and knowledge sharing capacities; and in Nigeria the Girlsaide Empowerment Initiative is developing ‘edutainment’ modules to promote healthy living to disabled young people - with the content available in English, the three main local languages and braille, as well as being subtitled and shown in sign language.
In Palestine’s Gaza Strip, Youth Vision Society are recruiting life coaches to encourage action on smoking cessation and increasing physical activity. A similar approach is being taken in the Dominican Republic, where Health Horizons International hope to scale up to a national Community Youth Council encouraging healthy living. The Tarayana Foundation in Bhutan are also working in remote areas with government offices, civil society organisations and schools to bring healthy living education to young people living in rural settings.
Photo Caption: Tarayana Foundation (Bhutan)
Advocacy plays a key role in many of the grantees’ work and we are supporting Work for a Better Bangladesh Trust in developing awareness-building campaigns including letter-writing, media and social media that encourage physical activity and counter air pollution.
2021 promises to be another challenging year for millions of young people and we wish all of our grantees well with their projects and look forward to seeing what they have achieved, and perhaps more importantly what can be learnt to strengthen efforts to improve youth health and wellbeing into the future.