Astana, 24 October 2018 – Over 120 young activists from over more than 50 countries gathered today in the University Medical Center of the Nazarbayev University, in advance of the Global Conference on Primary Health Care (PHC): from Alma-Ata towards Universal Health Coverage and the Sustainable Development Goals taking place in Astana on 25-26 October, to discuss about the content and issues that will be addressed during the Global Conference as well as how adolescents and young people can be involved and contribute to change post-conference.
The event, under the name “Our future, our health”: Young people´s engagement in Primary Health Care (PHC) – Youth Preparatory Workshop, served as an opportunity for young activists to meet and network, a platform for exchange and learning on PHC issues, and to inspire innovation and partnerships.
Before getting into discussion groups, the young activists participated in the opening of the event with several national and international representatives both from the Kazakh Government and UN institutions, that highlighted the need of having youth at the forefront of the development of health care policies, and were challenged by activists in the lively Q&A that followed.
The Minister of Health of Kazakhstan, Yelzhan Birtanov, welcomed all young activists to Kazakhstan and stressed “the importance for Kazakhstan of young participation and its link with developing public health policies, putting at the centre of the system the use of digital technologies to make sure every person, young and adults, is fully informed about their health”.
WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, sent a direct message to the young people in the room, by telling them, “Take care of your own health, become advocates for health and serve your communities. Health is a not only a right but a means to an end for achieving results in many other areas, It is critical to understand health and make the right political choices to ensure universal health coverage”.
He was followed by Giulia Vallese, UNFPA Representative for Kazakhstan and Country Director for Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan, who stated that if “If young women and men can be empowered with relevant information and receive high-quality confidential health services they can develop skills for safe and responsible behaviour, avoid early and unintended pregnancies, protect themselves from STIs including HIV. This can be one of the biggest investment to building a thriving generation and a sustainable future”.
Ted Chaiban, Director of Global Programmes of UNICEF, gave his vision to young activists “we have learned from the successes in primary health care that in order to be successful we have to link health and human rights, ensure that people are at the center of health and social systems, work across sectors with health, education and social protection, and work together focusing on solidarity between people and countries, making sure that the poor and vulnerable are not left behind”.
Afshan Khan, Regional Director of UNICEF for Europe and Central Asia, reminded the audience that there are only 4,000 days left to achieve the SDGs and asked young participants to reflect on “how do we build our health systems for the future together”, and thanked Kazakhstan for “being a leader on youth engagement and participation, especially in Primary Health Care promotion, including in the areas of Mental and psychological health where Kazakhstan has made important progress. She stressed the importance of young people in co-creating solutions for improving the health and wellbeing of everyone”.
The Nazarbayev University President, Shigeo Katsu, closed the opening by welcoming participants to the University and summarized his thoughts in an original alphabet, asking young activists to be “Ambitious, Believe in yourselves, be Committed, Do something, Enjoy what you do” and added two more letters, “be Humble and Respect others”.
Young people had the opportunity to engage in lively discussions throughout the day on topics ranging from youth as providers or users of PHC to the creation on a roadmap to move forward on PHC. The day ended with the preparation of the Youth Lunch that will be organized in the framework of the Global Conference and with a dinner reception.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org.