Inspiring Future MCH Superheroes!
By Emily Fiscus
Youth Council Coordinator
Colorado Medical Home Initiative
As a sibling of a young adult with special health care needs, I have grown up in a world of advocacy. I have learned that obstacles are merely dares to succeed and that we are all equipped with the capability it takes to act as a leader. In the past year, I have been fortunate enough to blend my leadership background into a professional role of directing a youth advisory council through the Colorado Medical Home Initiative. Empowering young adults to actualize their full capacities as leaders is humbling. There is a growing desire to include youth in systems that directly affect us, and I strive to become a better leader each and every day to ensure that this inclusion continues.
Attending the AMCHP Annual Conference allowed me to see the bigger-picture. Sending a youth representative demonstrated to youth leaders that what we’re doing matters, and also set the expectation to our national partners to expect and recruit youth. My role as council coordinator was deeply enriched as I was equipped with knowledge that will continue to steer me as an MCH professional. Bringing home resources to my youth council has ignited a fire in many of us to continue researching to see how we can move forward. We will all advance as advocates that will contribute to the greater good of women and children through Title V.
Having been involved with Title V programs for less than a year, the amount of information I soaked up during the conference was a little overwhelming! We covered a variety of issues, all through the lens of maternal and child health. From the effect of gender roles on domestic violence to addressing health disparities among populations of young people to prevent teen pregnancy, it was a wonderful reminder to me that “health” is a broad concept. A comprehensive view is essential in understanding the components of a person’s life and incorporating youth perspectives in Title V programs is a necessary step in achieving this. We know what professionals prescribe for success, how parents and teachers feel, and what mentors suggest, but until the preferences of the target population are articulated, a major piece of the puzzle is missing. Youth leaders belong at every table to ensure that the work of MCH is efficient, representative and fruitful. The most important message that I learned was that the voice of youth is valued! Our call to action continues to unfold!
My advice for young adults who feel drawn to public health is, dive in! Even if you cannot immediately see where you’ll eventually end up, the first step is all it takes. Find something you are passionate about that could be made better, and go for it! Future involvement of youth during the AMCHP Annual Conference may need to look differently than it has in the past. Because youth are just entering the world of health advocacy, it is difficult to participate in conversations that deal with what the system currently looks like. I found myself in over my head during many of the sessions, simply due to lack of experience. Workshops that are geared toward teaching youth and helping them find their paths in MCH, rather than addressing anecdotes based on professional experience, may be more successful. Valuing youth as equal partners does not mean that methods of teaching and learning must be the same. Ultimately, blending the desire of youth to make a difference with a system that is asking for guidance, will result in a more meaningful system. I feel honored and excited to be a part of this process, and look forward to continuing my work in public health!