WH&Y authors: Peter Lin
Peter Lin is a 22-year-old medical student from the University of Newcastle and a member of the WH&Y Commission. In November last year, Peter travelled to Melbourne with fellow WH&Y Commissioner Deborah Manandi, as well as Betty Nguyen and Professor Philippa Collin, to attend the 2022 Youth Health Conference, hosted by the Australian Association of Adolescent Health (AAAH). His experiences at the conference reinforced his belief that supporting children and adolescents with a healthcare system that is welcoming, affirming, and designed to their unique needs can set them up for success well into their future. He shares his impressions below.
2022 Youth Health Conference
In late 2022 I had the opportunity to attend the annual AAAH conference, the first to be held after a three-year, COVID-driven hiatus. Being there as part of the WH&Y team was an opportunity for me to broaden my understanding of youth health, and marked the culmination of four months' work preparing the WH&Y Commission’s presentation on the Youth Matters project.
I arrived on the second day of the conference, and it was clear from the get-go that this conference was focused on hearing not only from researchers and academics, but from young people themselves. For so many young people, the last few years have been a period of significant disruption, from the lockdowns of COVID-19, to extreme climate events and increasing cost-of-living concerns. Yet, through this, we have also seen young people take action in extraordinary ways. For me, one of the highlights of the conference was the keynote address by Jean Hinchcliffe, a young climate activist who was instrumental in organising the School Strike 4 Climate protests. Over the course of the conference, we heard from many other inspirational researchers and young people including another of our very own WH&Y Commissioners, Grace McGowan, who helped host the Youth Forum panel event alongside National Children's Commissioner, Anne Hollonds.
By bringing together new research and perspectives from across the country, the presentations at the conference demonstrated to me just how varied it can be to grow up as a young person in Australia, and the big differences in the standard of healthcare available to young people, depending on who they are and where they live. We learned how digital technologies like LiveWire are allowing young people with disabilities to build online communities, how young 'recruiters' can play an integral role as intermediaries between young people and healthcare services, and about the urgent need to address the geographic disparity in access to youth health services, such as that facing Tasmania currently. Across all the talks we heard, one thing was clear: that improving health and wellbeing outcomes requires researchers, policy makers and clinicians to listen to young people's perspectives and experiences.
Of course, in and among all of these amazing events, we still had our own work to complete. On the last day of the conference, Professor Philippa Collin, Betty Nguyen, Deborah Manandi and I presented the preliminary findings of the WH&Y Youth Matters project, as well as a symposium on the work of the WH&Y Commission and its resources, including the WH&Y Engagement Framework.
As a relatively new Commissioner, it has been incredible for me to see what WH&Y has achieved in terms of propelling youth involvement in health, research and policy design. Youth engagement was a theme throughout the conference: How can we actually engage young people in a meaningful way that leverages their lived experience to produce beneficial outcomes for adolescent health and wellbeing? And whilst there is no one-size-fits-all solution, I hope our work adds to the increasing literature on how this can be done to produce tangible results for everyone.
Thank you Pip, Betty and Deb for being amazing supervisors and collaborators on this project. See you in Adelaide for the 2023 Youth Health Conference!
About The Authors
I am Peter, a 22-year-old medical student from the University of Newcastle. As a young person and fu...