The young generation is raising their voices – but will they be heard? (S15)

Unlike any other session at the European Health Forum Gastein 2020, the session Young European Voices (S15) was primarily targeted at young professionals with varying backgrounds and interest in health. The session aimed to facilitate a platform for future policy leaders from different European youth movements to share their expert opinion and to enter into a dialogue with high-level representatives from European institutions. The focus was on health systems resilience and digital health transformation.

After the first round of interventions, it became evident that raising and uniting voices alone is not enough to make a change, both for creating resilient health systems and the inevitable digital health transformation. As Michele Calabrò from the European Patients’ Forum pointed out, “we did not start from an ideal situation when COVID-19 hit us, so we need to create more resilient health systems now – and be better prepared.” Showing the entire world with gruelling clarity how important good delivery of healthcare and a properly functioning health system are, COVID-19 has opened the pandora’s box of shortcomings in national health systems, known and raised by health stakeholders for decades. Finally, there is the political will to work towards change – and therefore all health stakeholders – health professional, patients, civil society, have to join forces and grab the bull by its horns.

On multiple counts, the representatives of European institutions present in this session pointed out that the future of Europe needs youth organisations and young professionals to make their voices heard. And that policymakers need to be in touch with the youth, for they in fact need their help (e.g. because, as Susana Solís Pérez, MEP, Renew Europe, said “we are more digitally literate”). It seems that institutions and politicians are lost and don’t know where to start, only further adding items to the already endless list of long-term visions for a resilient and digitally transformed health system, while hesitant to initiate much needed short-term action and the proper implementation of already existing policy tools. With young people revamping scuba diving masks for the needs of the pandemic or setting up local networks to help the elderly, their call for a seat at the table, for more involvement in co-decision making and co-creation, seems more than timely and justified. However, it remains to be seen whether the young generation’s voices are strong enough to be heard on those levels they can actually make a difference at.

This blog was written by a Young Gasteiner Simone Mohrs.

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