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Partnering with AstraZeneca

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Young Health Programme

Empowering young people to live healthy lives with AstraZeneca

In 2010 we partnered with AstraZeneca, a global, science-led biopharmaceutical business, to become a founding member of the Young Health Programme. Our global work, in Brazil, Kenya, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Egypt, Colombia and the UK has a unique focus on young people and the prevention of the most common non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

Working with other expert organisations and combining programming, research and advocacy, we work with young people aged 10 to 24 to address risk factors such as tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, physical inactivity, an unhealthy diet and air pollution. These can all lead to NCDs in adulthood, including type 2 diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, and mental and neurological health conditions.

Our global programme empowers young people to live healthier lives and create change in their communities – and this expertise is now informing our Young Health Programme in the UK. Announced in 2020, it will tackle the growing mental health and wellbeing inequalities faced by young people, with a focus on gender inequality. By listening to young people’s needs, we’ll work with them to shape the future of their mental health and wellbeing.

Reaching young people and their communities

Between 2010 and 2020:

6,599

peer educators were trained through the Young Health Programme

658,469

young people were reached directly with health information

2,936,012

community members were reached indirectly through awareness raising

Young Health Programme Colombia

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The Young Health Programme Colombia supports young people in the country’s capital, Bogota, and has worked with 250 peer educators to tackle non-communicable diseases (NCDs) amongst young people.  

The programme has built strong relationships with local schools, headteachers and government officials, meaning parts of the programme are now embedded into the local school curriculum.  

“The programme has helped me strengthen my leadership and has empowered me a lot. I feel very confident in myself and my support for the community has become much stronger and it makes me happy”, says Valeria, 15, a Young Health Programme Colombia peer educator. 

A boy stands in the street
20-year-old Shafly is a peer educator with the Young Health Programme in Indonesia. “There are so many smokers around me. It makes me really want to smoke again but I understand the dangers. Smoking does not bring anything positive into our lives.”

A holistic approach

We believe that a holistic approach is the most effective way to address NCD prevention and promote long-term health for young people.

As well as the five recognised NCD risk factors, tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, physical inactivity, an unhealthy diet and air pollution, this approach includes sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and the emotional wellbeing of young people, and using a gendered approach to NCD prevention.

In this way, the programme addresses the impact of underlying social, economic, cultural and psychological factors and creates an environment in which young people have access to the support, information and services they need.

Photo of a girl in front of a brightly coloured wall
In Indonesia, Alvi used to be bullied because she has a disability – but the Young Health Programme has given her a new sense of confidence. “The programme has given me knowledge to help my friends live healthier lives and make better choices,” she says.

The benefits of peer education

The Young Health Programme uses peer education as the main strategy to build young people’s knowledge and skills on NCD prevention.

Once young people are trained, peer educators share what they have learned with other young people and wider community members including parents, teachers and health professionals.

Young people also become advocates for health and use their voice to influence government services and policies. Through the programme, we champion the prioritisation of young people’s health and the inclusion of NCD prevention in global policies and programmes.

Connecting and empowering young people

The Young Health Programme aims to improve the long-term health and wellbeing of young people through four interrelated and reinforcing strategies:

  1. Empowering young people by building their knowledge and capacity to protect and promote their long-term health, including NCD prevention, SRHR, gender and emotional well-being.
  2. Mobilising communities by increasing knowledge on NCD prevention among teachers, families and local leaders, to ensure a safe and supportive environment that facilitates healthy behaviour among young people.
  3. Strengthening the capacity of health facilities to support the health of young people, including the accessibility and quality of youth friendly services.
  4. Advocating for laws and policies which support NCD prevention and promote the broader health of young people.

Read more in our report celebrating 10 years of the Young Health Programme:

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Young Health Programme UK

Our Young Health Programme in the UK was launched in 2020 to tackle the growing mental health and wellbeing inequalities faced by young people, with a focus on gender inequality. The programme works with young people aged 10 to 24 in Greater Manchester and Cambridgeshire.

The programme has been designed with and for young people, following an innovative youth-centred design model. With young people’s voices at the heart of the programme, from 2020-2025, we are working together to identify solutions to tackle health inequalities and improve the health and wellbeing of young people and their communities.

Prioritising young people's mental health

Supporting young people to realise their right to good health and wellbeing is a key aim of the Young Health Programme and this major, in-depth, global report shines a much-needed spotlight on the issue of adolescent mental health. The report examines the relationship between adolescent mental health and the key risk factors - tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, lack of exercise, unhealthy diet and air pollution - that cause non-communicable diseases (NCDs) amongst young people.  

Aimed at global and national policymakers, this qualitative study is based on focus groups and interviews with young people from the Young Health Programmes in Brazil, Kenya and India. The report identifies the diverse issues driving poor mental health among young people, highlights why a ‘gendered’ approach is needed to tackle the different mental health issues faced by young people, and outlines the solutions needed to help improve the access to and quality of mental health support services for young people.   

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