By Axel Arroyo Tarraza
Puerto Rico Youth Advisory Council representative
"Curious" is the best word to describe how I felt during AMCHP 2018. It was my first time at a conference and in the states, which means that everything was new for me. During a keynote speech, Dr. Michael Lu spoke about the emerging challenges for AMCHP in the future, and he said we must place our hope in the next generation. This touched me because as a young person it's up to me to continue the current work and become more involved in public health.
I met peers and adults from different parts of the country and of other ethnicities. Being able to exchange our views about life and health helped me to understand the importance of diversity and of learning about others that maybe do not share my thoughts. I also saw how by working together, we could find answers to problems that affect us as young people – or affect society overall. For example: how to deal with bullying in schools, how states deal with crises like hurricanes and drug abuse epidemics, improving neonatal and maternal care at hospitals, or increasing male engagement in family health services.
This conference taught me that health doesn't have a race or a gender – that if we want to face our current and future problems, embracing diversity is really important.
I highly encourage other states to have their own young representation at conferences, because as Dr. Lu said, we are the next generation, and being involved in this way changes you. AMCHP 2018 was one of the best life experiences ever. Now I come back to Puerto Rico with many new friends, new ideas, a more open mind, and an immense desire to work and be an active leader in my community.
Image: Youth and young adult representation from Washington State, New Mexico, Puerto Rico, Iowa, and Vermont at AMCHP 2018. Author is pictured third from the left.