Kazakhstan

At Almaty conference, young people share their ideas on global health care

UNICEF Image
© WHO/Chris Black
Young delegates at the preparatory meeting to the international conference marking the 30th anniversary of the signing of the Alma-Ata Declaration on primary health care.

By Ravi Karkara and John Budd

ALMATY, Kazakhstan, 16 October 2008 – Young people from Brazil, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Malta, the Philippines, Tanzania and the United States of America gathered in Almaty to take part in this week's international conference celebrating the 30th anniversary of the signing of the Alma-Ata Declaration on primary health care.

During the four-day preparatory meeting before the conference, the 10 young delegates shared their ideas and experiences in the field of primary health care and agreed on a set of key health issues that affect young people along with recommendations to be presented during the deliberations of the International Conference.

They also exchanged ideas with UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman and World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan.

Partners in health, partners in change

In a closing statement on behalf of all the young delegates, US delegate Roopa Dhatt told the conference: “We are responsible. We will use the Alma-Ata Declaration and the outcomes from this conference to mobilize other children and young people on promoting health. The recommendations formulated in this conference will be shared with our groups and networks to empower ourselves, to further our work and collective action to promote primary health care. We are partners in health – here and now. We are partners in change.”

The conference was told that the young people exchanged ideas to challenge each other and prepared collective recommendations, voicing young people’s perspectives on primary health care.

The closing statement noted that marginalized young people, ethnic minorities, people with disabilities, and sexually and economically exploited children and young people, as well as those living with HIV, must be recognized and included in primary health care while upholding the highest level of human rights.

UNICEF Image
© WHO/Chris Black
US youth delegate Roopa Dhatt reads the closing statement on behalf of all the young people at the preparatory meeting to the international conference in Almaty.

Key recommendations

The young delegates noted that children’s and young people’s health is affected by climate change, violence, conflict, financial instability and food crises. Young people’s mental health is also crucial for achieving primary health, they noted. Key recommendations included:  

  • Support must be provided for the meaningful participation of young people in health policies and primary health care. This includes giving young people a voice, opportunities and partnerships in health care and beyond.
  • Health care systems must be friendly and sensitive to young people’s needs. Health care providers, families and young people must be equipped with attitudes, skills and knowledge to create an environment that enables them to exercise their human rights and build trust with their health providers.
  • Education about primary health care must be motivational, engaging, interactive, informal and culturally sensitive. Informational materials should be made age-appropriate and youth-friendly, in formats that are easily accessible. Special programmes for women and girls, as well as education for men and boys on gender equality, must be included in health education.
  • Social violence and harmful cultural practices must be eradicated. These include honour-based violence, coercion of young people (especially boys) to commit violent acts, female genital mutilation and early marriages.
  • Corporations must be more responsible. There should be regulation of marketing to young people, specifically limiting the influence of alcohol and tobacco, and the promotion of unhealthy beauty standards.
  • All stakeholders within the primary health care system must be held accountable for providing care and maintening the health of all individuals within communities, including young people.

At the two-day conference here, young people spoke on two panel sessions and participated in the plenary discussions and in informal contact with delegates from over 60 countries. They shared their own experiences and the work of their organizations and networks in promoting primary health care at the local and national levels. 


 

 

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14 October 2008:
UNICEF correspondent Guy Degen reports on the launch of a World Health Organization report on primary health care.
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