Young people incubating ideas for healthy lives

When Consumers Health Forum’s (CHF) Youth Health Forum first met, a key theme that quickly emerged was that young people were part of the “missing middle’’ in health care. The transition from paediatric to adult-level care has often meant that the specific needs and health issues facing young people get overlooked.

The need for action which that concept has inspired has now prompted an inspiring “Incubator” program of young people-centred projects ranging from mental wellness workshops for young surfers to a hip hop video project for young Indigenous people.

Current generations of young people have varying levels of health literacy, increasing obesity, escalating depression and anxiety rates. In addition, they experience frustration as they try to navigate pathways to services. Typically, the transition from paediatric to adult services is not a good one. Theyface the prospect of shorter life expectancies than their parents without the prospect of knowing who to turn to or how.

The health challenges facing young people have presented opportunities to innovate and improve the way young people are involved in designing better policy, research and local health services.

This has led the Youth Health Forum supported by CHF to launch an incubator grants program, designed to help address the “missing middle” concerns of young Australians in healthcare by supporting community activities that are led and inspired by young people.

CHF has received funding from the Australian Government Department of Health to enable the development of resources for young people to improve communication, provide pathways to services and ensure that the “missing middle” is recognised and supported.

With the COVID pandemic and resultant lockdowns posing special issues for young people, the way ahead for youth-focused health services will be a key theme in YHF’s Summit on 15 September this year.

What we do know is that many young people are engaged and eager to find solutions. The first YHF Summit in 2018 found that a number of young people were engaged in active health advocacy in their community. They had many ideas about how to improve access to health services for young people but they needed support to turn those ideas into action in collaboration with local partners and services.

The YHF incubator grants program is designed to enable young people to work locally with service providers and other partners to advance their ideas from plans into actions.

This program will be aimed at addressing the issues raised in the report Life Transitions and Youth Pathways to Services produced by the YHF and the Wellbeing Health & Youth (WH&Y) NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence. In 2020, the Federal Youth Taskforce was created to advise the Minister for Youth on the policy and programs available for young people across government agencies and finding ways to involve more young people in developing policies that affect them. CHF and WH&Y strongly support the Minister for Health’s vision of ensuring that Australian young people have the best opportunities to fulfill their potential. The report stated that to achieve this, we need to amplify the voices of Australia’s young people, to ensure that they can readily access the right service at the right time.

Two other reports supporting action on youth health have been the National Action Plan for the Health of Children and Young people 2020-2030, and the Youth Taskforce Interim Report.

The variety of successful applicants for YHF Incubator Grants program has demonstrated not only the range of needs but also the opportunities for youth-centred community projects.

A list of successful grants is below. All are part of an incorporated organisation or have the support of one. The grants are up to $5,000 for short-term or one-off initiatives or activities, and up to $10,000 for long-term projects with greater scope.

Successful grant applicants

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About the author

Leanne Wells

Leanne Wells

Chief Executive of the Consumers Health Forum of Australia