Launch of the Commonwealth Youth Health Network

Youth and health in the Commonwealth

Young people constitute about 60 per cent of the population of the Commonwealth, with three in every five Commonwealth citizens under the age of 30.

Poor health in the youth population can be detrimental to national economies, through direct economic losses for treatment and loss of productivity from indirect costs. It is widely acknowledged that health goals can be better achieved if young people are fully engaged as partners and leaders in addressing social development issues through planning, monitoring and evaluating programs and policies (1)

In response to this the Commonwealth Youth Health Network (YHN) is being established to partner with the Commonwealth Secretariat and member countries in achieving health-related goals particularly SDG3- to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.

The network will provide a platform for collaboration with young people on important national, regional and global health issues. It will also strengthen the capacity of young people to engage with their communities, policy makers and wider stakeholders. This approach moves beyond recognising that young people are valuable human resources capable of developing into healthy and productive older adults and embraces them as catalysts for change.

A mandate for action

Numerous Commonwealth statements over recent years provide a strong mandate for the establishment of the YHN:

2016 Commonwealth Health Ministers’ Meeting Ministerial Statement:
On engaging young people; we, the ministers, endorse the establishment of a Commonwealth Youth Health Network in recognition of the contribution of young people and their potential to make significant contribution to the achievement of the SDGs.

2015 CHOGM Statement on Public health issues:
“Heads also called for continued promotion of collaborative research into communicable and non-communicable diseases, as well as collective Commonwealth action to advocate for global health security and the reduction of all public health threats.”

Supporting the network

The YHN is a collaboration between the Youth division (YTH) and the Health and Education Unit (HEU) of the Commonwealth Secretariat. The YTH assists Commonwealth member governments in the development and implementation of policies and programmes for the empowerment of young people aged 15-29. The work of YTH is anchored in the belief that empowered young people are assets to their societies and are vital to national and global development.

The HEU will provide expertise and direction to the network, linking it with the Secretariat’s health work. The HEU will also provide a platform to engage the network in policy discussions through its knowledge hubs – Commonwealth health and education hubs.

The Commonwealth Youth Health Network presents an important opportunity for young people to forge a clear narrative and articulate the opportunities, challenges and significance of youth engagement in health. It will also provide a platform to ensure cohesion among young people in the Commonwealth

The Lancet commission on adolescent health and wellbeing 

The Lancet commission on adolescent health and wellbeing has recently released a report, providing informative reading for those wishing to engage with the Commonwealth Youth Health Network. The link below includes a recording of the webcast from the launch event ‘Our future: a Lancet commission on adolescent health and wellbeing’

(1) DFID-CSO. (2010). Youth Participation in development; A Guide for Development Agencies and Policy Makers. London: Department for International Development.