On Tuesday, November 16, 2021, the traditional Youth Policy Forum was held. This year, the topic was Youth Health. The Youth Policy Forum is a one-day event that the National Youth Council of Serbia has been implementing since 2017, on various topics, with the idea and goal of enabling young people to participate equally together with representatives of institutions in the process of making important decisions to improve the position of young people in Serbia.
Forum opening – introductory panel
At the opening of the Forum, the talk was about how important the health of young people is as a topic and in what ways the speakers, each from their own angle and from their own domain, are working to improve this area.
The Deputy Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council, Tanja Miščević, mentioned some important projects that the organisation is dealing with, such as the Youth Lab, or the Balkan Barometer research.
Milan Savić, State Secretary at the Ministry of Youth and Sports, said that from their point of view, for the Ministry, the priority is to deal with the topic of youth health, primarily through promoting and advocating the highest possible vaccination rate for young people.
Then there was Ricardo Vian Marquez, CEO of Galenika A.D. Belgrade, spoke about the topic of youth health and emphasized that balance actually plays a major role, as well as that it is necessary to develop as many healthy habits as possible among young people.
Uroš Savić Kain, as the President of the Management Board of the National Youth Council of Serbia, spoke about the importance of dealing with the topic of youth health from the point of view of the National Youth Council of Serbia, and about the research that was conducted on the impact of the kovid-19 pandemic. He also mentioned this year’s Alternative Report on the Position and Needs of Youth from 2021, and what he said that this report is characterized by a decline in the assessment of mental health of young people, and that partly for that reason there was a need for this year’s Youth policy forum deals with youth health.
Research results: Youth health in Serbia
After the introductory panel, the Secretary General of the National Youth Council of Serbia, Miljana Pejić, presented some of the most important results from the research on youth health, which will only be published on the networks and website of the National Youth Council of Serbia later this year. “Our research was conducted in August and September, we had over 1000 respondents who talked about how they see their health, whether they are satisfied with their current health condition, how the covid pandemic affected them, what is their attitude towards vaccination… We had a set of questions about how they assess their mental health, who they turn to for help if they need it; how and to what extent they are informed about their own health, how they process them, and in the context of health policies. What we got through the research as data is that 14% of young people have a chronic disease. When it comes to attitudes about vaccination – almost half of young people (49%) think that vaccines against covid are useful in the fight against corona, while the other half (51%) are either very negatively oriented towards vaccination, or are undecided.”
On this occasion, she provided some more information:
– that young people most often encounter cigarettes and alcohol already in primary school;
– more than half of the young people surveyed said they had tried cigarettes, and every 5th person had tried cigarettes in primary school
She also stated that every fifth young person is overfed, which further leads to the fact that every 3rd out of 10 young people is satisfied with the level of their physical activity, and as the most common cause of not being more physically active, they stated that it is a feeling of tiredness that they have after a whole day (which was said by 45% of the surveyed young people). The results obtained in terms of reproductive health were also presented. All these results, and the research itself, will be published on the National Youth Council of Serbia’s website soon.
Panel: How can our young people be healthier?
This was followed by a panel entitled “How can our young people be healthier?”, which discussed ways in which the health of young people can be improved, as well as the personal experiences of the panelists on this topic.
Dr. Vesna Bjegović Mikanović, spoke about why young people are important in the context of public health. She said that young people are important because, by the nature of their behavior, they tend to associate and organize, and that this is of great importance in terms of public health. Dr. Mila Paunić, assistant director for medical affairs at the Student Polyclinic in Belgrade, said that the misrepresentation and impression that is sometimes gained from the media is that young people are blamed for anything in the context of a pandemic, and that this is the wrong approach. She pointed out that the young people were very burdened, especially mentally, during the pandemic. Stanislava Vucković, head of the program for the development of adolescents and young people at UNICEF in Serbia, said that the topic of youth health is important and that it is also important to look at it from different angles. She pointed out that it is characteristic of the mental health of young people that good mental health ensures that the transition to adulthood is easier. Andrea Arsić, coordinator of the administration and member of the project team, KOMPAS, spoke from the point of view of this organization about how practical it looks to deal with reproductive health, peer education of young people on the topic of HIV prevention.
After the panel discussions, the dialogue of young people and representatives of institutions and organizations continued through work in three thematic groups: mental health of young people, youth and vaccination and reproductive health of young people. They worked together to create recommendations for improving the health of young people and mapped opportunities for cooperation and synergistic action in achieving the set goals.
Video of the entire Forum: