‘Missing Middle’ theme for first national Youth Health Forum

Fifty young people from around Australia meet today (Wednesday 19th) at an inaugural Youth Health Forum in Canberra to discuss the health challenges they face, including their experience as the “Missing Middle” of the health system.

The gathering, initiated by the Consumers Health Forum, brings together youth leaders and nominees of youth and community organisations. The forum aim is to identify the issues impacting on young people and generating recommendations to improve health system responses.

The Youth Health Forum program is based on the information presented in more than 120 applications to the event. Forum participants will be encouraged to share their experiences and those of the communities to which they belong.

The Consumers Health Forum is proud to support young people to be heard in national health policy debates and seeks to empower their participation through events such as the Youth Health Forum.

“Young consumers are the missing middle in Australia’s health system as they are moving between the paediatric system to the general system catering for adults. All too often they find that the services on offer are confusing or inappropriate for their needs,” the CEO of the Consumers Health Forum, Leanne Wells, said.

“It is unsurprising that the issues raised include the need to address overall health and wellbeing through affordable, culturally appropriate, and continuous care. The participants have also highlighted the need to provide more information to young people about what is available to them and to focus on technology to make the system more efficient, leaving more time for genuine face to face care.

“CHF seeks to ensure that the discussions today will provide real insights to address issues like mental health, chronic diseases and obesity, more effectively now and into the future,” Ms Wells said. 

Patients are moving away from being passive participants in their health care and are increasingly seen as consumers who are actively involved in decision making and shaping the system standards.

Last night at the Forum welcome dinner, the 2017 Youth Representative to the United Nations, Paige Burton, spoke about young people's experiences of navigating the health care system. She shared her own stories of chronic pain and those she heard during her extensive travels around Australia.

"Young people face many of the same barriers as adults. And like adults, they experience inequalities as a result of negative stereotypes about their age, gender, and backgrounds," Ms Burton said. 

"I've found myself helplessly navigating the healthcare system for years now, and I wish young people were taken more seriously by professionals”

"We need to recognise that these issues don’t just affect young people because they’ll be reliant on the system in the future. Instead, we must remember that these issues affect young people now, in a myriad of ways."

Current President of the Australian Medical Students Association, Alex Farrell, spoke about the perilous mindset that students need ‘resilience’ when in fact what needs to change are the unsustainable working conditions and high levels of mental health issues, bullying, and sexism. 

Consumer Representative Harry Iles-Mann provided an overview of the many shapes of advocacy, both in health care and more generally.

“I believe that advocacy in any capacity, whether on a national or international platform, or within your local community is a crucial and valuable contribution.“Effective advocates express their own perspectives as well as being champions for the voices and insights of those who are less able to express themselves. Often, good advocacy means stepping back and helping to empower others to talk about what is important to them - and this is exactly the spirit with which the Youth Health Forum is being held.”

The enthusiasm and insight provided in the lead up to the Youth Health Forum show that young people are interested in these discussions and want to be consulted in decisions that impact them. They are coming together to share their experiences and perspectives and to discuss ways for the health and care system to be improved for young people in the future.

CHF gratefully acknowledges our Forum supporters: the Medibank Better Health Foundation: headspace; Orygen; the Australian Digital Health Agency, the Australian Commission for Safety and Quality in Healthcare; the National Mental Health Commission and the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education.      





Media contact

Mark Metherell

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