This post originally appeared on the AstraZeneca Young Health Program blog.
The Lancet, a prestigious medical journal, recently published a Commission on Adolescent Health and Wellbeing. The Commission is a thorough look at the current global state of health and wellbeing among young people, and as a young person myself, I found it did great justice, uncovering truths and combining both research and the voiced needs of young people.
The Commission focuses, in part, on how law affects adolescents and their access to resources and services. Access is something that the Young Canadians Roundtable on Health (YCRH) and the Young Health Program (YHP) have been investigating through the Health Rights and Responsibilities project that we are collaborating on.
In our project, we have been focusing specifically on youth in Canada and their rights when it comes to accessing quality healthcare, as well as what their responsibilities are to get involved and take action for their own wellbeing. A lot of what the Commission contained regarding adolescents, or youth as we call them, and the fact that they often “fall through the cracks” as the “border group,” directly relates to what we heard from our members. These concerns fueled the need for us to start work on the Health Rights and Responsibilities project.
Many of the legal rights surrounding youth or adolescent health are very vague and inconsistent. There aren’t many documents that outline the specific rights of the youth demographic, and the documents that do exist are dramatically inconsistent province to province, which makes individual rights difficult to understand and complicates access to the information youth need to be active participants in their own wellbeing.
The Commission calls for a better acknowledgement of how law impacts health for all and for everyone to address what this means for adolescents. This is exactly what members of the YCRH are looking to address and it is exciting and refreshing to see The Lancet recognizing the dire need for this, since there are so many areas (such as ages to consent to treatment) that are extremely unclear and inconsistent.
As a young person and as the chair of the YCRH, I am looking forward to seeing what action results from the findings presented in the Commission. I think that this report is a great step in the right direction towards uncovering what youth believe they need and filling in the existing gaps. We can’t begin to bring about change without first acknowledging an issue, and I believe that is exactly what The Lancet did in releasing the Commission.
I’m very excited to see the changes that groups are aiming to make – specifically around the laws regarding youth rights to access quality health care and resources that will allow young people across Canada to actively participate in their own health. I highly recommend that anyone working in youth or adolescent health read the Commission as a great starting point for addressing the action that needs to be taken.
Alyssa Frampton, originally from Newfoundland and Labrador, is studying Public Relations at Humber College in Toronto, Ontario. Alyssa is the chair of the Young Canadians Roundtable on Health, an initiative of The Sandbox Project. She is a blogger, a mental health and youth advocate, and speaks publicly about her story and the importance of removing the stigma surrounding at-risk youth. She is passionate about driving change and giving youth the opportunity to share their stories and have their voice heard. You can connect with Alyssa by following the YCRH on Twitter: @TheYCRH.