Health Ministry’s COVID-19 youth programme a hit with young leaders

More than 100 young leaders turned out to the official unveiling of the Ministry of Health & Wellness’ COVID-19 Youth Leaders Response Programme, which will tap into their capacity for advocacy in order to enhance the national response to the pandemic.

The event, staged at the Jamaica Conference Centre on Friday (October 16), saw some 50 youth leaders on site but appropriately physically distanced from each other, while some 70 or so others joined virtually.

On the agenda, led by Minister of Health and Wellness Dr. Christopher Tufton, was an explanation of the impact of COVID-19 on children and adolescents; and a sharing on coping strategies for youth during the pandemic.

The youth leaders, who participated from across the island, were also provided with the introduction to the programme. With a focus on youths 14 to 30 years old, it has as its core objective the effective engagement of young people on the protocols established by the Ministry to protect the general population and their transformation into change agents for the rest of the society.

To realise that end, the programme will, among other things, provide community-based support; foster relationships between youth and health services; and mass media education among young people.

At the end of Friday’s event, youth leaders were on board to help Jamaica get ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic. They also lauded the Ministry’s efforts to engage them as key stakeholders.

“It was rather informative and engaging, and covered a lot of what the Ministry hopes or seeks to embark on. I hope that whatever was said will be executed and followed up by our youth leaders because we are in community spread and it is important that we play our part in mitigating the community spread from our level,” noted Jordan Dressikie, president of the Balaclava Police Youth Club.

He added that he and his team will be headed into his community in the coming days to distribute care packages, together with the local poor relief inspector.

Jhenelle Small, president of the Mona Law Society, had high praise for the Ministry.

“I feel energised,” she said after the event.

“It (the programme) is an opportunity to get engaged and so I am very happy and very impressed that the Ministry has decided to do this. As a student leader and in partnership with the Guild Council of the University of the West Indies, we will be doing everything in our power to assist in the fight against COVID-19,” Small added.

Minister Tufton noted his confidence that the programme will succeed in its various youth-led activities and in the public health interest.

“The vitality, courage and persistence of youth has always served society. I know that now, when we need that vitality, courage and persistence, our youths will rise to the occasion, helping us to win the fight against COVID-19,” he said.

“The fact that they took the time to participate in Friday’s event is evidence of their willingness to do so and the Ministry is here to support them,” the Minister added.