By Karl Rene
On June 20th, the Boston Public Health Commission Youth Advisory Council got an opportunity to present the Boston Public Health Commission Board with an update on their work. These young teens presented with enthusiasm and their interest in public health issues was evident. In their presentation the council shared their mission of bringing together youth representatives from the various youth-serving organizations in Boston to:
- Identify and propose policies, initiatives and programs that support healthy youth development;
- Inform activities at youth-serving organizations across the city and guide the development of city, state, and federal policies that promote healthy youth development and address inequities in health outcomes for Boston youth of color; and
- Advise BPHC and the Board about health issues affecting youth, and present suggestions for health services, policy development, grant development, and advocacy.
These young teens had valuable input on sexual health education, which is their primary focus. The council suggested that there should be more advocating for mandatory sexual health education in our schools, an increase in the number of sexual health education counselors, and they also requested involvement in advocacy for passing City ordinances and statewide laws making sexual health education mandatory. The Youth Advisory Council’s suggestions were timely since the Boston School Committee recently voted in favor of an expanded wellness policy. This new wellness policy, among other things, provides for increased condom availability and sexual health counseling in Boston’s public high schools.
As their 3 goals for the year, the Youth Advisory Council listed:
- Improving and increasing sexual health education and resources in school;
- Advocating for jobs for teens; and
- Raising awareness of and improving services and resources for teen parents, particularly young fathers.
The Youth Advisory Council presented a point of view that must be heard in order to improve the health of Boston’s young people. The board valued their opinions, and it is clear that the Youth Advisory Council will have an impact on future decisions.
Karl Rene is an intern in the Policy & Planning division of the Boston Public Health Commission.