On December 7, 2018, the Young Canadians Roundtable on Health (YCRH) hosted a roundtable in Toronto on Mobilizing youth to improve health care policy in Ontario.

The roundtable focused on the role of youth in shaping health policy in Ontario. We were lucky to have Ms. Sophie Kiwala, MPP join us to represent the Ministry of Children and Youth Services, along with young Ontarians, stakeholders, and youth advocates.

The roundtable went exactly as we had hoped and we penned recommendations that could further youth’s voice in health policy and in general. Below is a copy of the recommendation letter the YCRH shared with Ms. Kiwala.

Dear Ms. Kiwala,

On behalf of the Young Canadians Roundtable on Health (YCRH), I would like to thank you again for speaking at our roundtable on December 7. I would also like to commend your work to support the introduction of OHIP+, and to meet with youth about what this new program entails and to engage them for their feedback.

I wanted to take this opportunity to request your continued support of our recommendations that resulted from the event.

Through our YouthHealthRights.ca platform, YCRH outlined three key priorities for youth health and has outlined the recommended actions we feel the Ministry of Children and Youth Services can support to help us achieve our overall goal of increased youth access to health information and services.

Priority one: A strategy to ensure Canada’s youth are aware of their health rights

YCRH’s research determined that there is a lack of easily accessible information on youth’s right to health in Canada. At our Ontario roundtable, we also heard that there is a lack of knowledge around what rights youth have and how they can exercise them and are therefore, recommending the following:

  • A cross-ministerial collaboration between the Ministries of Children and Youth Services, Health and Long-Term Care and Education to create an approach that integrates health rights education into the mandates of all ministries.
  • Creating this cross-ministerial strategy in coordination with young people to address their gaps in health rights knowledge.
  • Using multiple avenues to connect with youth so as not to leave out the voices of those who cannot get to the table or are voiceless.

Priority two:  Create wait time targets for youth mental health and address the silos in care between the child and adult systems

As widely reported, access to mental health services is a rising issue across the country, particularly for young people. Wait times for mental health services have become a top barrier according to youth, some of whom wait up to one year before they receive any type of care. We recognize that provincial and federal budgets are committed to addressing this issue over the next ten years and YCRH is hoping for your support with the following recommendations:

  • Focusing on front line services and getting doors open for youth.
  • Creating a provincial plan that tackles silos in care in collaboration with children, youth and families.
  • A continuous push to ensure services are culturally appropriate and meet the needs of youth with all levels of abilities.
  • Endorsing a well-integrated care network which includes community-based services and social and informal supports to acute and specialty care.

Priority three: Establish a youth advisory council to include youths’ voices in health policy.

On a regular basis, youth face a number of unique barriers when trying to access health care services, such as time, geographic, financial and information barriers. Youth are asking for better and are willing to participate – they just need to be heard and given the power to drive change. To ensure the youth voice is captured in policy, YCRH recommends the following:

  • Government in any ministry, not limited to health, must consult with those who are most affected by a given policy decision, in this case youth.
  • Leverage the YouthVoiceON platform. Have conversations with youth health advocates such as the YCRH and those endorsing this letter, to identify ways to reach more Ontario youth, and incorporate more health policy questions.
  • Continue to support groups such as the Premier’s Council on Youth Opportunities and Ministry youth advisories.
  • Commit to completing a Child Rights Impact Assessment on any policy, law or significant decision that might impact children and youth.

We appreciate your consideration of our recommendations and your continued efforts to support and engage Ontario youth in health policy. We would like to request a meeting with you to discuss these recommendations with you further – to respond to this request, or if there are any questions please contact Alyssa at: aframpton@sandboxproject.ca or by phone at (416)523-0940.

If you agree with our recommendations, please help us in spreading the word on social media and getting others on board with engaging youth voice in health policy!