From January 27-30, Youth Combating Neglected Tropical Diseases (YCNTDs) participated in the first-ever World Health Organization (WHO) Youth Council in-person meeting in Geneva, Switzerland at the WHO headquarters. This meeting brought together 22 diverse youth organizations from health and non-health backgrounds from all over the world, representing the power of youth in driving positive change for public health.
The WHO Youth Council was established in June 2022 with the goal of amplifying the voices and experiences of young people and leveraging their expertise, energy, and ideas to promote public health. The meeting served as an important space for Youth Combating NTDs to share their experiences in combating Neglected Tropical Diseases and highlight key priorities in addressing health equity challenges faced by the youth.
During the four-day meeting, the Youth Council members discussed key priorities and work plans to accelerate progress on universal health coverage, noncommunicable diseases, mental health, and youth leading for health. They interacted with the WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Chair of the WHO Executive Board, Dr. Kerstin Vesna Petrič, and other senior WHO leaders to brainstorm on concrete initiatives.
During the meeting, the WHO Youth Council agreed on mechanisms for making partnership opportunities accessible to young people across the globe through the networks represented by the Youth Council members, identified avenues to showcase the Youth Council’s work during key WHO meetings and collaborative events, explored gaps in the availability of data on health inequity issues of young people and identifying WHO technical support to report these gaps and developed a proposal to engage with WHO Member States, including the inclusion of youth delegates as part of delegations from Member States.
The WHO Youth Council is an exciting platform for young people to design and incubate new initiatives and expand WHO’s existing youth engagement activities. Through the Youth Council, WHO will develop an inclusive Youth Engagement Strategy across all levels of the organization, ensuring that the perspectives and needs of young people are heard and acted upon.
In conclusion, the inaugural face-to-face gathering of the WHO Youth Council was a resounding triumph that united various youth groups from around the globe with a shared objective of advancing public health and we look forward to championing Neglected Tropical Diseases on this global stage.