Youth Should Have a Seat at the Table

November 20, 2017
By Ifunanya Ikhile, Key Correspondent for the Irish Forum for Global Health


This statement was reiterated at the inaugural Youth Forum of the Human Resources for health Conference held at the Royal Dublin Society, Dublin, Ireland on Tuesday, 14th November 2017. Students and young professionals from various countries, health, and social care sectors enunciated the importance of youth engagement in addressing global health workforce issues.

Youth being one of the largest global demographic groups can make significant contributions towards positive change. In the human resource or health space, this may involve ensuring socially accountable education. Social accountability of medical/pharmacy/nursing schools as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) is:

The obligation to direct education, research and service activities towards addressing the priority health concerns of the community, the region, and/or the nation they have a mandate to serve.

This in simple terms involves schools anticipating the kind of health care workers required by evolving health systems and producing them.

You don’t know it until you live it.

This statement was made by Dr. Roger Strasser, Dean of North Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM) while discussing the importance of immersive community learning. NOSM has demonstrated social accountability in medical education through community engagement, careful student selection, case-based learning, incorporating clinical skills from the very start, and a longitudinally integrated clerkship.

We recruit students who have grown up in the community, learned in the context … We are the first school in the world where the students have this

he said, while referring to longitudinal integrated clerkship –  a model of clinical education which differs from the traditional block schedule. It is built on a foundation of continuity in learning relationships between students and interprofessional team of health professionals. It is often achieved by students being embedded in primary care clinics and participate continually in a system of care.

The medical students learn more, do more, and see more than other medical students in other schools.

All the students “matched” in the first round – something that hadn’t happened in Canada for 20 years prior to that. “Match” is a term used widely in graduate medical education, and it means a successful application for a residency or fellowship position. Dr. Strasser emphasized the importance of student feedback and their ability to effect change. He said:

Medical students often underestimate what a force they are for change.

Now the students quote that right back to him in their efforts to make that change happen.

Katerina Dima of the International Federation of Medical Students Associations corroborated this point. She described how a student revolution began following a presidential visit to the University in which the students were denied the right to speak. This was the incident that led to Portugal becoming a democratic society.

Social accountability is also about engaging your peer group

she noted –  getting fellow students on board with movements of change, also providing constructive feedback to educators. She gave instances in which student feedback had been a driver for change in her medical school.

Lina Bader of the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) discussed socially accountable education in the Pharmaceutical context. She emphasized how tools have been developed, some still in development to ensure workforce development goals are achieved, and pharmacists’ skills are relevant to the communities requiring them. Youth empowerment, and engagement with policy makers in decision making was another emergent theme. The Pharmacists youth fora of FIP, International Pharmaceutical Students Federation (IPSF) and Young Pharmacists Group (YPG) are constantly engaged in FIP decision making activities.

An intercourse of ideas and informed feedback led to the adoption of the Youth Call for Action, a document reaffirming youth commitment to achieving the 2030 agenda for sustainable development. This document revealed that building a health workforce prepared to respond to current and adapt to future needs would involve: socially accountable education, creating decent jobs, encouraging social entrepreneurship, fostering intersectoral collaboration, technological innovation, gender equality, increased global investment in the health sector, safety of frontline health workers, mutually beneficial health labour mobility, government engagement and accountability, among others. All being done with an understanding that health is an investment and not a cost.

Fresh ideas, energy, and enthusiasm of youth can be combined with the experience and wisdom of the older generation to drive global change within the health sector. Seeing that the task ahead is enormous, an inclusive collaborative approach must be employed to ensure success, everyone must have a seat at the table!


November 17th, 2017


Ifunanya is a Pharmacist, a passionate educator, has worked as a lecturer at the University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria for four years, and is currently pursuing a PhD at the University of Nottingham, United Kingdom, Division of Pharmacy Practice and Policy. Her current goal is to improve Pharmacy Education in Lower and Lower-Middle Income countries through a needs-based approach.

She has acquired broad professional experience spanning Oncology with Pfizer, Community Pharmacy, Urban and Rural Hospitals, Specialized Pharmaceutical Care, Pharmacy Administration, Industrial Pharmacy, Charity Organizations, and Academia. She loves reading, and meeting people.


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