Global health has always been a concern, what with ever growing issues and threats to human existence. Viruses and diseases are constantly evolving, contributing to a global state of paranoia and panic. However, humans always find ways to counter and overcome these seemingly impossible situations, but it comes at a loss. Now, imagine if these problems were presented and tackled by the youth of today, how much of a difference would it make?
To me, it is BIG.
We just have to change the way we think and approach global health when it comes to youth involvement.
Before thinking about involving the youth in developing world health, the mindset that only experienced doctors can contribute to the cause of world health needs to be altered. The traditional notion that the medical field is the only way to tackle health issues is outdated. This is because advances in technology have allowed everyone to be involved in preventing health problems on a smaller scale.
With this in mind, how can the youth be involved in the development of world health?
Many of the ASEAN youth are digital natives, especially those who grow up in urban or suburban areas, and they are very comfortable using technology. Researchers predict that by 2020, almost half of Southeast Asia’s population will be under 30 and more than 55% of its working-age population will be comprised of tech-savvy millennials. Clearly, technology is one of the best ways to involve the youths, as they can be encouraged to initiate innovative technologies that can provide health services to people. For example, they could create mobile applications that influence fitness and exercise, calorie counting of food or other educational and interactive material.
Health education is key in preventing health issues, as it helps people to be aware of how to take care of themselves. One important part of health education is sex education. The negative effect of the lack of proper sex education can be seen clearly in the numerous cases of teenage pregnancies. In most Asian countries where sex education is viewed as a taboo, youths must take the responsibility of educating their peers in creative and effective ways. This can be done through forum discussions on the Internet, mobile applications which provide health advice on contraception and safe sex, and sharing of infographics using social media.
Youths should also be introduced to the concept of social entrepreneurship as a global business movement and an avenue for improving healthcare. Instead of going to business for just the sake of earning an income, social entrepreneurs make a living through impacting the lives of people in need. Youths may be worried about having a job and contributing to their family income, yet they wish to contribute to society in a meaningful way, and social entrepreneurships are one of the best ways to fulfil both. By providing an option where helping the community can be a proper job, more youths will be likely to be involved in the solving of global health problems. Hospitals Beyond Boundaries is one such social enterprise which operates as a business while supporting healthcare services for poor communities in Cambodia.
What does this mean for the youth and the world?
The youth have the creative capabilities to be the innovators in overcoming health issues around the world. Whether they are students or young working adults, youths can play a key role in addressing world health problems. All it takes is for the world to give them opportunities for them to fulfill their potential and show what they can do. Youths themselves also need to step up and use their talents and resources to improve world health. With the youth working closely with the current workforce and bringing the uniqueness of their generation, there will be a great positive change in world health.