Our Pathway to a Healthier Future

UNICEF-AstraZeneca 2020-2021 Young Leaders

A manifesto from young leaders around the world:

Living through the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that our health cannot be taken for granted. Our health and the health of future generations depend on the actions and choices we make today. As young people, we are concerned about five increasingly unhealthy trends, which are only being exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic: 

  1. The rate of obesity among 10-19-year-olds globally is 5 times higher today than it was in 1990.

  2. One third of adolescents worldwide consume alcohol.

  3. Global prevalence of tobacco use among adolescents is 19% across high, low, and middle income countries. 

  4. Over 90% of those under 15 years of age breath toxic air everyday.

  5. Up to 20% of young people experience mental ill-health in any given year and self-harm has become the 3 leading cause of death among 15-19-year-olds.

These factors have a negative impact on our daily lives and increase our risk of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), which today account for 70% of global mortality. We believe that young people can, and must, turn the tide on these trends. But how do we get there? Our pathway to a healthier world calls for:

Young people to be aware.

Together we must help young people understand the benefits of investing in their own health. It is important that we recognize and examine the factors that influence our behaviors and our environments, unlearn unhealthy behaviors, develop healthier habits, and create new standards for living. Today, a growing community of young creators around the world are turning to art and blogging to spread messages about health and well-being through the Voices of Youth platform.

We are also seeing an increase in grassroot movements for awareness-raising led by young people in places like Jakarta, Indonesia where the Youth Movement for FCTC aims to inform youth about how they are affected by the tobacco industry and how tobacco use affects their health. These are only a few of the many examples aiming to build awareness in young people. But, we need increased efforts like these, led by youth for youth, to raise awareness on NCD burden and risk factors in ways that are engaging, relevant, motivating, and tailored to our needs and realities. 

Young people to be empowered.

As young people, we require the abilities and confidence to maintain and advocate for healthy lifestyles. This must be sustained by applied knowledge, skills, resources, and an environment that nurtures self-development. Youth-led groups are becoming increasingly involved with empowering everyday citizens to take action for promoting health and healthier environments.

For example, in Bogota, Colombia, the youth organization El Derecho a No Obedecer, has been building the capacity of young people to take personal and collective actions against air pollution through their public conversation spaces and  Air Day campaigns. We need greater investments towards evolving our capacities, resources, and agency to develop and implement our own ideas and solutions to promote healthy lifestyles.

Young people to drive action.

As young people, we have a lot to contribute but a shift in power relations is needed in order for us to create meaningful and lasting change. Around the world, more and more young people are part of shaping the policies and services affecting their health.

In Jamaica, for example, the combination of establishing of a Health Ministry Adolescent Policy Working Group, U-Report polling, and partnership with the Jamaica Youth Advocacy Network (JYAN) have allowed youth-proposed solutions to be taken up by the Ministries of Health and Education towards meeting the health needs and rights of young people. We need to be treated as equal partners, leaders, problem solvers, and agents of change in creating the policies and legal actions required to reduce NCD risk factors and burden globally.

On behalf of young people around the world, we stand committed to tackling the most pressing health issues facing our generation. Join us and the UNICEF-AstraZeneca YHP Partnership as we work to ensure that all young people are aware, empowered, and actively driving change towards a healthier future for ourselves, our communities, and our planet.

UNICEF-AstraZeneca 2020-2021 Young Leaders

Alejandro Daly, Colombia/Venezuela; National Coordinator, El Derecho A No Obedecer 

Anjali Singla, India; Psychologist and Principal Coordinator, Movement for Global Mental Health 

Breanna Hyde, Belize; Child Advisory Board, National Committee for Family and Children Belize

David Henry, St. Lucia; Founder, ReThink Youth 

Jerry Azilinon, Senegal/Benin; HeForShe Ambassador, UN Women

Margianta Surahman Juhanda Dinata, Indonesia; Spokesperson, Youth Movement for the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control

Omnia El Omrani, Egypt; Liaison Officer for Public Health Issues, International Federation of Medical Students Association

Rasheem Martin, Jamaica; Zonal Coordinator, U-Report Jamaica

Vinicius Gaby, Brazil; University of Sao Paulo Medical Student, Communicator at Meu Amigo Médico

Winfred Apio, Uganda; Programme Manager, Uganda Youth and Adolescents Health Forum




Follow @voicesofyouth on Instagram to learn more about the UNICEF-AstraZeneca 2020-2021 Young Leaders and read their full bios here.

Interested in what they have to say? Join the conversation in our social media channels and check back our website soon for more information, videos, and challenges to help you live a healthier 2021!