13.16 Youth and health risks

2010-11 has been declared by the UN General Assembly the International Year of Youth: Dialogue and Mutual Understanding. The World Health Assembly will consider Document A64/25 which is a report from the Secretariat on youth and health risks. 

See also the Guanajuato Declaration from World Youth Conference 2010

WHA Watch Comments

The Secretariat Paper provides a useful summary of the various conditions which are of particular relevance to young people and some of the economic, social and cultural determinants and some general directions by way of response. 

The paper identifies some of the ways in which gender inequalities contribute to the health risks of young women.  It is not so strong  in terms of how structured gender inequality is to be addressed.  The paper does not refer to some of the other axes of inequaliity which affect young people including racism, caste and disability.

The Secretariat has correctly identified decent employment as a critical determinant of youth health and life chances. It does not refer to the structured imbalances in the global economy which deny many million young people access to such employment.

The paper makes reference to the involvement of young people in recognising and addressing many of the problems and causes which it identifies.  It does not refer to comprehensive primary health care as a health care model which is designed to provide openings for affected populations and communities to work with health care practitioners towards better health.  

Addressing the structural determinants of health involves politics; it involves community action and social movements. It is not enough for WHO to conceive its involvement solely in terms of suggestions to ministries of health.