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IP/09/1109

Brussels, 9 July 2009

'Be Healthy, be yourself' – Commission launches youth health initiative

Involving young people more actively in developing EU health policies is the aim of an initiative launched today by the European Commissioner for Health, Androulla Vassiliou. The initiative kicks off with a conference on Youth Health in Brussels on 9 and 10 July 2009. Over 200 young people, from across Europe, aged 18-25 years will meet with policymakers and health organisations to debate key health issues, such as the consumption of alcohol, tobacco and drugs, or physical activity and mental health. Cross cutting issues, including the financial crisis, inequalities in health, education and the role of the media will also be addressed. The conference is organised jointly with the European Youth Forum and accompanied by a multi-lingual website on the EU health portal which includes a blog where young people can have their say on health.

Key note speakers at the conference include H.R.H Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands, France's High representative for Youth Martin Hirsch, World Health Organisation's deputy regional director for Europe Nata Menabde and President of the European Youth Forum Tine Radinja. Youth participants will speak in all sessions and the whole conference will be webstreamed to ensure a wider audience.

Androulla Vassiliou, EU Health Commissioner said: "Even though the health of young people in Europe is better than it has ever been, there are worrying signs that far too many young people adopt behaviours which, in the long term, will reduce their ability to lead healthy and productive lives, thus endangering their future. My aim is to motivate the youth of today to care about their health, engage with policymakers and speak out on health matters."

The Youth Health initiative aims to:

  • involve young people more closely in EU health policies

  • strengthen youth partnership in the decision making process;

  • involve other sectors across EU policy areas and at national level on the implementation of prevention programs targeted at young people;

  • support Member States' activities on the health of young people.

The need for this initiative is even more apparent given the results of a survey carried out by Generation Europe showing that 52% of those surveyed did not know EU polices in the area of young people's health existed. When asked how they felt they could contribute to health policymaking, 41% called for more direct involvement with policymakers and 40% suggested better adapted communication channels.

Website: 'Be healthy – Be Yourself'

As part of the initiative, the Commission has set up the website "Be Healthy - Be Yourself" accessible from the EU Health Portal and available in 22 languages. The website has three major parts: a conference page , a Youth Health competition page and a blog with testimonials, which is moderated by the European Youth Forum. The winners of the arts competition will be announced at the conference on 9 July.

Background

The EU has already developed specific actions in collaboration with youth. For example, through the Youth Forum, the EU “Help” tobacco prevention campaigns for which they even produced a youth manifesto giving their views on appropriate measures to better prevent tobacco's harmful effects. Youth is also a target group in numerous actions on health promotion initiated by members of the EU Platform for action on Diet, Physical Activity and Health. The Youth health Initiative intends to build on these actions.

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