Youth Pre World Health Assembly: Leadership, Diplomacy and Governance

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The third edition of the Youth Pre-World Health Assembly, organised by IFMSA in collaboration with the Global Health Program at the Geneva Graduate Institute and Global Health Workforce Alliance, has drawn to a close. The delegates engaged in global health governance and diplomacy training around IFMSA’s key priorities in the lead up to the 68th World Health Assembly in Geneva.

The delegates were engaged in advocacy, diplomacy and governance training specific to the World Health Assembly, a major event on the global health calendar. As gathering of the future global health leaders and actors, this multidisciplinary event engaged students from several fields of global health including pharmacy, dentistry, veterinary sciences, political sciences and law. This unique cross-section of youth and health advocates engendered a spirit of cooperation and consideration of global health as a truly interdisciplinary field. Through our training sessions facilitated by the Dr Graham Lister from the Geneva Graduate Institute, we prepared our advocacy and engagement plan. Debates between the streams, stakeholder mapping and simulations of WHA negotiations moulded our understanding of, and strategy to engage with Member States and other members of civil society.

A highlight of the advocacy training coordinated by Dr Graham Lister was the first (and hopefully not the last) Youth Pre-WHA debate, in which delegates prepared arguments to support one of IFMSA’s four advocacy priorities. These priorities, which aligned with key items of this years WHA agenda, are Antimicrobial Resistance, Non-Communicable Diseases and Climate Change, Health Systems and the Ebola Outbreak, and Adolescent Health. Based on the delegates own understanding of the topic, advocacy strategy and stakeholder analysis, each stream was pitted against, with all being encouraged to think about innovative ways to convey their priorities. This unorthodox arena of discussion allowed the delegates proposed plan for the World Health Assembly to be tested in a ‘mostly’ friendly arena. We debated, argued and endeavoured to convey our message, lending to discussion and improvement of our strategies. This exercise allowed us to not only practice the concise presentation of the ideas we had been discussing, but to also develop skills in negotiation and diplomacy which pertain specifically to the highest level of global health governance. After further discussion, involving a mock press conference and simulation of the negotiation of a proposed resolution, we ultimately created plans for engagement of the IFMSA delegates in the WHA.

IMG_8462The non-communicable health and climate change stream generated an advocacy plan around the upcoming proposed resolution on air pollution, and continuing our on-going high-level advocacy activities in climate change. Meanwhile, the stream focusing on antimicrobial resistance made use of the recent ‘One Health’ activities which have engaged other health fields including pharmaceutical sciences, dentistry and veterinary sciences. This led to the creation of a truly multidisciplinary policy brief and advocacy plan for the pressing, and growing burden of antimicrobial resistance. This discussion involved responsible prescription, and use of antimicrobial agents by health professionals. These same health professionals, and the health systems they work in, were a central focus of the Health Systems group. With particular input from Dr. Jim Campbell, the Director of Health Workforce at the WHO, and Executive Direction of the Global Health Workforce Alliance. This stream pursued advocacy strategies around the training of health workers, with particular attention paid to the migration of healthcare workers, as well as the discussion of the role and importance of strong and resilient health systems. Finally, with extensive input and consultation from a consultative youth group convened by the WHO, the Adolescent Health stream highlighted the importance of true investment in the health of adolescents. Supported by Dr. Jane Ferguson, this stream developed a detailed outline of the many determinants of adolescent health, with particular attention being paid to adolescent involvement and engagement in their own healthcare.

Through our four panel discussions (one for each stream), and external support and guidance from the Junior Doctors Network of the World Medical Association, Pascale Wyss and Prof. Ilona Kichbusch, both from the Global Health Programme at the Graduate Institute, and Dr Jim Campbell from Global Health Workforce Alliance, we developed what we hope will be an exciting and innovative approach to engagement in global health governance and diplomacy.  We were encouraged to embrace our unique role and perspective in the upcoming discussions, ensuring that we engage with WHO Officials, member states and other members of civil society. Suggestions to be the young, fresh and innovative group pushing the WHO and its member states to truly invest in these advocacy priorities. In particular, Dr. Jim Campbell and Professor Ilona Kickbusch implored upon us to allow people to see us, given that we are not  just the next generation of healthcare workers, but young people who will face the consequences of the current negotiations and consultations.

Through this event, and our current activities at the WHA we have developed technical skills and understanding in the field of global health diplomacy and advocacy. This opportunity, coupled with the privilege of engaging with youth advocates from all sectors gave us to develop the youth voice.

We are incredibly excited about the upcoming editions of the Youth Pre-WHA, and IFMSAs ongoing engagement in global health activities. Watch this space for the ‘new voices in global health’.

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Participants of IFMSA Pre-Youth WHA together with members of the Junior Doctors Network (JDN).
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