Today, young people represent the largest part of the population globally. While, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child undeniably shows that the voice of children is important, the voices, opinion and perspective of young people are often disregarded.
However, increasingly, we are seeing the desire for these voices to be heard. As the next generation of leaders, workers and carers, true and lasting effects to positively impact youth health, including overweight and obesity needs to include the initiative and leadership of young people themselves.
Acknowledging the central role of youth as key agents of change, the 4th Global Youth Meet (GYM) on Health, organised by HRIDAY alongside the World Health Regional Office for South-East Asia, was convened on April 20-21, 2021. The event welcomed over 600 participants from 35 countries representing all six WHO regions to explore the theme of ‘Meaningful Youth Engagement for Leading Action on Universal Health Coverage and Sustainable Developmental Goals’. As a GYM partner, World Obesity welcomed the opportunity to play an active role in the event.
Joined by Dr. Kanwal Preet Kochhar, our policy team organised a workshop aimed to shift the obesity narrative, by sharing guidelins on the use of language and imagery when discussing obesity. The two-hour session aimed to:
- Provide an overview of the obesity epidemic as well as the root causes of obesity.
- To share case studies showing how obesity and the way it is perceived may vary across different regions and cultures.
- To share good practice about the type of language and imagery to use when talking about obesity.
By the end of the workshops, participants agreed that we must shift the narrative away from obesity as the responsibility of an individual, and move towards a comprehensive, empathetic approach to the prevention, treatment, and management of the disease, and this includes a shift in the way in which obesity is depicted in our everyday lives.
In addition, we supported the drafting of the GYM 2021 Youth Declaration, released during the closing ceremony of the event. Through a Call to Action, the Declaration highlights that now more than ever is an opportune time to build their resilience, competence and capacity for an idealistic rhetoric of young people changing the present and future. Finally, Johanna Ralston, CEO of World Obesity, moderated the closing ceremony alongside youth advocate Lesly Vejar.
We congratulates HRIDAY on an excellent event. It served as a unique opportunity to explore with youth and for youth, the linkages between key public health issues, and to increase capacity for them to get involved as NCD champions and partners to accelerate progress in the decade of action for sustainable development.
Why do youth play such a pivotal response in shifting the narrative?
‘Young people are excellent at taking existing frameworks, and ideas to shape them in a unique, innovative way to address the challenges we face in society. We must provide them with frameworks, and toolkits, and involve them in conversations as experts more often. Schools are a key setting where stigma for people living with obesity prevails, and if we do not address these issues, equip youth with the competencies on how to use language apprioriately, and to identify negative behaviours they may bystand – how can we expect them to call out on their peers, or think differently? The workshop exemplified that youth are already aware of some of these issues.’
– Claudia Selin Batz, Policy and Projects Coordinator, World Obesity Federation.
- Healthy Voices, World Obesity’s youth capacity-building website.
- Zuzanna Burzynska, youth advocate and CO-CREATE Task Force Member from Poland shares her experience of participating in the GYM 2021, where she took the floor during the closing ceremony. Read more here.
- World Obesity’s language and imagery guidelines
- World Obesity’s bank of non-stigmatising imagery
- Youth Voices for Healthy Choices, a new youth-led three-episode podcast series from the World Obesity Federation.
- Global Youth Meet (GYM) on Health and CO-CREATE Youth Declaration.