The Power of Youth in Improving Community Conditions for Health

Institute of Medicine of the National Academies
Though a common target for health-improving efforts, young people are not often regarded as agents of change for healthier communities. However, a growing number of successful health-supportive policy, environment, and systems-change efforts trace their impetus to youth involvement. Not only are youth proving to be catalysts and prolific communicators in social movements, but their involvement signals a potential for career choices and civic stewardship that portends improving population health and equity in the years to come. An emerging area of research is beginning to show that youth organizing can contribute to both community development and youth development (Ginwright and James, 2002; Christens and Kirschner, 2011). This discussion paper examines promising models of youth involvement in social movements for better community health, some of which recently came to the attention of the Roundtable on Improving Population Health.

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