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July/August 2024Vol. 25, No. 6The Power of Youth Leadership in Creating Conditions for Health and Equity

The National Academies Roundtable on Population Health Improvement recently hosted a hybrid public workshop focusing on the significant role young people play in driving social, economic, and environmental changes that enhance community health and equity. The event highlighted the impact of youth leadership in fostering conditions for health and equity. Discussions also covered the civic infrastructure and resources essential for supporting youth participation and leadership in these efforts. Proceedings from the workshop have been compiled and published in an e-book, Exploring the Power of Youth Leadership in Creating Conditions for Health and Equity.

The workshop underscored the importance of empowering youth to lead initiatives that address various determinants of health. By involving young people in leadership roles, communities can leverage their unique perspectives and innovative ideas to create more equitable and healthy environments. The event emphasized the need for robust civic infrastructure to facilitate youth engagement and support youth in driving meaningful change.

Four main panels structured the workshop:

  • Youth Civic Engagement and Leadership: This panel discussed the historical context and goals of youth engagement, effective involvement strategies, the state's role in youth organizing, and success stories. It highlighted the importance of understanding young people's perspectives and the resources necessary to support their activism.
  • Child Development and Family and Community Context: This session focused on adolescent development and the impact of family and community dynamics. It included insights from organizations like Community United for Restorative Youth Justice and emphasized the importance of supportive community structures for youth development.
  • Data, Surveys, and Research: This panel introduced initiatives like the MyVoice project and youth-led organizations such as Students Deserve in Los Angeles. It featured academic perspectives on youth organizing and discussed the sustainability and accessibility of youth movements.
  • Infrastructure and Supports for Youth Leadership and Engagement: This panel addressed the necessary infrastructure to support youth leadership, including funding, mentorship, and organizational support.

The workshop concluded with a discussion on the need for continued efforts to support youth leadership and integrate their voices into policymaking and community development processes. This gathering served as a platform for sharing strategies, experiences, and best practices in youth leadership. Participants explored how to build and sustain environments where young leaders can thrive and contribute effectively to community health initiatives. The insights from this workshop are intended to inspire and guide future efforts in promoting youth-led health and equity projects.

The full e-book on the workshop and its findings is available for free from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.