Activating youth leadership toward the realization of Universal Healthcare Coverage (UHC) – What’s the way forward? | 2nd Annual YouTH Voices Summit 2022 Report

Ryculture Health and Social Innovation, in partnership with Kenya Healthcare Federation (KHF), International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA), African Leadership Academy (ALA), Villgro Africa, Amref International University, among others, hosted the 2nd Annual YouTH Voices Summit from 1 to 3 December 2022 at Amref International University under the theme: “Activating Youthful Leadership towards the Realization of Universal Healthcare Coverage.” This convening brought together thought leaders, policy makers, and youth leaders for knowledge sharing, policy shaping, and inspiring conversations to set the stage for intergenerational & cross-sector collaborations to strengthen health systems.

More than 100 youth leaders, policy makers, and experts in the healthcare sector joined the summit to deliberate on approaches toward UHC, in line with the WHO Health Systems Pillars. The discussions took the format of plenary discussions, keynote speeches, and abstract presentations. On the sidelines of the main event were hackathon sessions facilitated by Villgro Africa, where young innovators presented their ideas to close specific gaps in the healthcare industry, with a majority focusing on the potential of digital solutions to improve and optimize healthcare service delivery. African Leadership Academy (ALA) hosted a “Build-In-A-Box” workshop facilitated by youth leaders (alumni of the Academy) that centered on equipping youth leaders with entrepreneurial design skills to ideate, develop, implement, and scale their innovative solutions.

In her speech, the chief guest, Prof. Miriam K. Were encouraged young people to take it upon themselves to be informed to be able to address the current drawbacks in the pursuit of UHC. Information is power and whoever lacks it gives away their power. She noted that the youth have substantial potential to drive change but lack information on what to do, how to do it, and, therefore, are often relegated to participation in consensus making rather than driving real action. To change the narrative, youth must be informed. She further urged youth leaders working with communities to embrace the indigent groups as they were more enlightened on their contexts as well as the challenges affecting them. She noted that we were post the era where indigenous people were considered mere recipients of aid & services. Communities need to be involved for impactful execution of projects and for sustainability.

Drawing on insights from participants and hosts, the event presented an opportunity for youth to reflect on the challenges they experience and observe in their daily lives and envision a better future anchored on thoughtfulness, commitment, and collaboration. This imagined future is in line with the mission of the YouTH Voices Network (YVN) program, which is to enlighten, empower, and evoke action among youth to act for their health and that of their communities.

Luca Deplano, Associate Manager, Innovation and Access Policy at the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA), who joined the event virtually, reiterated the commitment of IFPMA to stimulate healthcare innovations in the continent through the Africa Young Innovators for Health Award. He spoke to IFPMA’s plans to create a strong network of healthcare entrepreneurs from those who apply for the Award, and urged participants to look out for the call in 2023, which will focus on the theme of UHC.

Ann-Lise Mikolajczak, Manager, Global Health and Access at IFPMA outlined youth-led and youth-focused initiatives by IFPMA that support youth engagement in addressing global health challenges. Some of these include Women Innovators Incubator, Healthcare Youth Perspectives EmpoweRed (HYPER), Chatham House African Public Health Leaders Fellowship, the Geneva Summit on Africa, and engagement with the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, which is facilitating internship and work opportunities with multiple organizations based in Geneva, including IFPMA.

The organizers took the opportunity to officially launch the YouTH Voices Network on the last day of the summit, with a focus on providing young professionals and youth leaders a platform to network, gain skills and exposure to the job market, and collaborate to deliver impactful health projects in local communities. Speaking during the launch of the Network, Dr. David Odhiambo, Co-founder, Ryculture Health and Social Innovation said that the YouTH Voices Network was a creation based on his personal experience, having accessed similar platforms during his time at the university and early in his career that helped him learn and grow in the industry. To model the same in a structured way and acknowledging the disparities in individual predispositions, he hoped the platform would enable more young people access opportunities and positions of influence to shape the future of healthcare in Africa.

He urged partners and corporates to leverage this platform to extend internships, secondments, and fellowship opportunities to young people who were keen to contribute to their programs. He also noted that mentorship is a critical component in professional development and hoped that, through the platform, young people will be able to get mentors to help them in their career journeys.

“We have waited too long to be granted a seat at the table. It’s time we created spaces, mobilized among ourselves, and fostered partnerships to realize our common aspirations toward a healthy and prosperous future.” – Dr. Odhiambo David

*YouTH – Youth Transformation Hub

You can access the conference report and resolutions here.

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