The Tangible Impacts of Virtual Health Advocacy: Making Health Policy More Accessible Among Youth Through Virtual Interventions.
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On behalf of the American Heart Association, I had the honor of discussing strategic interventions to increase youth engagement in health policy/advocacy at the November 2021 International Association of Adolescent Health (IAAH) World Congress in Lima, Peru. Given that the World Congress took place virtually, my presentation, “The Tangible Impacts of Virtual Health Advocacy: Making Health Policy More Accessible Among Youth Through Virtual Interventions”, aptly highlighted the AHA’s virtual platform, “You’re the Cure” (or YTC), as an accessible avenue for communities to advocate for health policy reform. Curiously, a common impediment to promoting health equity is the disconnect between constituents and the laws that govern them, in terms of promoting current Layman’s descriptions of healthcare bills and disseminating actionable advocacy measures to the public. Thus, I discussed YTC’s succinct summaries of upcoming health legislation, which strive to empower constituents regarding their healthcare, as well as its customizable email templates for constituents to urge action from state and federal legislators, as means of effectively bridging the divide between governance and the governed.
I further discussed my goals and experiences as founder and president of “Heart at Berkeley”, an organization devoted to fostering greater student engagement with “You’re the Cure” at UC Berkeley, my alma matter. Given that the World Congress was focused on Adolescent Health, I framed the mission of “You’re the Cure” around the involvement of youth advocacy leaders in joining the fight for health equity, starting with initiatives that directly affected their peers (including greater tobacco control, improving nutrition in school-issued lunches, and allocating greater funding for cardiovascular research to inform future mitigative efforts).
Leading up to the conference, the AHA’s leadership team for the World Congress hosted several meetings with presenters to discuss conference logistics and to provide suggestions on how to create a successful presentation. Through these meetings, we cultivated an incredibly supportive and encouraging AHA community, for which I am eternally grateful. On the day of our presentations, I then had the opportunity to learn about novel intervention strategies from leaders spanning every corner of the globe. I was imbued with amazement and inspiration, bearing witness to the collective international efforts to improve the scope of adolescent health by employing nuanced, locally informed initiatives. The conference seamlessly integrated language translators on Zoom’s interface, evading language barriers in real-time as presentations took place. When it came to be my turn, I thoroughly enjoyed discussing my interventions with the audience because they reflected my passion for achieving health equity, which manifested in the “Heart at Berkeley” project I devoted my senior year of college to building. Introducing a new realm of possibilities and innovation in broad-scoping health advocacy, by promoting the AHA’s “You’re the Cure” platform to a global audience, was a pleasure and a true honor.
Going forward, I hope to present at other conferences like the IAAH World Congress, wherein my understanding of health/health advocacy is constantly being challenged and undergoing transformation. Furthermore, I strive to continue to fight for health policy reform with the American Heart Association in order to advance health equity, and eventually inform my ability to advocate for patients as a practicing physician.