Youth Leadership


Is AMCHP Ready to Embrace Youth Leadership?

By Mallory Cyr, BFA
Healthy & Ready to Work (HRTW) Youth Coordinator and 

Patti Hackett, MEd
HRTW Co-Director and Founder HRTW National Resource Center

Some of you may say, “Well of course we are!” while others may say, “Sometime in the near future.” And a few will respond, “No, not yet.” But let us ask this question: If not now then when?  

Leaving AMCHP’s conference, we heard “Where are the youth?” with the response of, “Well, what would they get out of this conference?” It’s been almost 20 years since the first family leaders began attending AMCHP’s conference. Were we ready? Was AMCHP ready? Who really can judge the “readiness factor?” What we do know is that with this movement there was an invitation extended in the spirit of partnership after the launch of Family Centered Care, and slowly more and more family leaders attended and were sponsored either by AMCHP or their state Title V CSHCN programs. Family leaders, AMCHP and state leaders all survived that transition time of learning from and with each other, so much so that the inclusion of family leaders is expected and now is the norm. As we reflect over these past two decades this partnership with family leaders has led to change and improved quality of programs. The natural next step is to include the population who the system and services are for: the YOUTH! Imagine the energy and change that can and will occur! 

We are not suggesting this caliber of policy meeting is for just any youth, but rather for those youth who have attained leadership skills and expressed an interest in creating and shaping health care policy that in essence directly affects them and their peers. Perhaps we could consider a “youth track” within the conference, or workshops focusing on youth leadership or youth involvement.  

From a recent HRTW questionnaire to state directors and review of the MCH Block Grants (2005-present), we have learned that the number of state supported health agency Youth Advisory Councils (YACs) has risen. In 2005, only four states had YACs, and in 2008 there were 18 established YACs and 12 more in process. This sure sounds like a movement to us!  

In these lean times of doing more with less resources, we need to join forces. The youth have something to say. Are we ready to listen? To teach youth? To learn from youth? To work together? To value youth as equal partners? We sure think the time is right. What about you? As we prepare for next year, looking ahead to Healthy People (HP) 2020 and assessing accomplishments of HP 2010, we encourage AMCHP and state Title V CSHCN leaders to be bold, to be ready and to support the future leaders. Transition to adulthood is the ultimate of all outcomes! 

Our recommended next steps:

For states: Create a YAC; assure that youth leaders are recruited and reflective of the population that is served (gender, disability, ethnic, geographic, socio-economic); provide professional development that includes health issues, policy and health and wellness too!  

For AMCHP: Dedicate a portion of scholarship slots to state youth leaders with health policy experience; integrate meetings and presentations at the conference with youth leadership representation;and include youth in  committees as well! 

Be sure to check out the resources on the HRTW website Youth Involvement - Get YAC'in! For more information, email Mallory Cyr or Patti Hacket.