In the lead up to the UN Climate Action Summit on September 23rd, hundreds of thousands of people in Australia (where I live) joined millions of people across the world to demand more credible actions from national governments to address the climate emergency. Only a year ago, Greta Thunberg, then 15 years old, quietly skipped school to demonstrate in front of the Swedish parliament, and through her plainly articulated calm calls for action has achieved resonance of her message, firstly with other young students who increasingly joined her Friday school strikes, and then more widely. Just as in Hong Kong, while social media can connect like-minded people, the motivational energy that can occur when like-minded people get together with a common objective can be transformative.
The International Association for Adolescent Health aims to enhance individual competencies, national capacity, and global investment in adolescent health. We aim to catalyze local, regional, and international connections between multidisciplinary professionals who work with adolescents, the organizations that support them, and young people themselves. Two years ago at the IAAH World Congress in Delhi, the transformative power of meetings became real for me in a conversation I had with Dr. Fransiska Handy from Indonesia on the last day of the meeting. In asking her what she had learnt and what she was going to do differently on her return home, she excitedly shared that the group of Indonesians at the meeting were so inspired that they planned to form an Indonesian association for adolescent health on their return home – which they have.
The value of national associations for adolescent health (and other relevant organisations) is the power they have to build local capacity for adolescent health. The diversity of ideas within larger groups creates different opportunities. Over the past few years, I have been thrilled by the energy of the IAAH vice presidents who have worked hard to convene regional adolescent health meetings. In mid-September, the 22nd European regional IAAH meeting was nested within the adolescent health conference convened by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine at Ascot, England. Only one month later, IAAH joined with a large number of UN agencies and civil society organisations to host the 1st Caribbean Congress on Adolescent and Youth Health in Port of Spain, Trinidad. We are now looking forward to the 3rd Middle East and North Africa regional meeting which will be held at the end of the year in Amman, Jordan.
In the meantime, let’s hope that Greta’s message continues to be transformative as the future of young lives will depend on it.