Health promotion foundation VicHealth has unveiled a first-of-its-kind initiative focused on creating a heathier future for Victoria’s young people.
With Covid-19 continuing to affect the health and wellbeing of young people, Future Healthy will invest $45million in new programs over three years to support people aged 0-25 to begin to build back better: reconnect socially and safely, get active, and access and enjoy good food.
This month, VicHealth will work with thousands of young people in developing this healthier vision together – using their views and experiences to inform what their healthy future will look like.
The projects delivered through Future Healthy will then be created in direct response to the ideas and needs that young people share.
The announcement comes as a new VicHealth survey reveals two in three (68 per cent) of Victoria’s young people aged 18-25 believe they have a role to play in helping plan and create healthier local communities.
The survey also highlighted what Victoria’s young people and kids need for good physical and mental wellbeing, during and after the pandemic.
Young people aged 18-25 key findings:
• Nine in 10 (90 per cent) young people believe that every young person deserves to enjoy good health as they grow up
• For seven in 10 (71 per cent) young people, staying socially connected with others has become one of the most important issues during the pandemic
• Three in four (76 per cent) young people said having access to healthy food near home is one of the most important things to them.
• Almost seven in 10 (69 per cent) young people said having nowhere near home to do the sports or activities they enjoy has an impact on their physical activity.
Cranbourne youth activist Zahra is one of 14 ambassadors for the Future Healthy project and said she was pleased to be able to take part.
“Being a young Muslim girl myself, I want people to know that no matter your background, race, religion or gender, you’re represented here and your voice matters.
“I want to encourage all young people to share their stories.”
Zahra moved to Australia from Singapore at the age of 15 and said she wasn’t prepared for “the isolation and culture shock” of the move.
She found comfort in the art room at school, where she felt she could express herself and creative meaningful relationships with her peers.
Those friends have become some of her closest companions, getting her through some tough times.
For Zahra, a healthy future is one where she can express herself and share her passions in a safe environment.
“A healthy future for me is highlighting that it’s important to have a place to belong to.
“It’s important to know you’re not alone, no matter where you are or what situation you’re in. I don’t want anyone to feel less worthy of being alive,” she said.
She’s acutely aware that many young people have been isolated throughout the pandemic and might feel daunted by the prospect of getting back into society once restrictions ease.
“I think for young people, having social programs and activities that reignite our passions and interests will allow us the opportunity to find communities again and rebuild our confidence to go back out into society,” Zahra said.
VicHealth CEO Dr Sandro Demaio said the Future Healthy comes after what has been an incredibly challenging 18 months, particularly for young people.
“The ongoing impacts of the bushfires, coronavirus pandemic and social upheaval have continued to weigh on the mental and physical health and wellbeing of Victoria’s young people” Dr Demaio said.
“They have told us that social connection, access to healthy food and having somewhere near home to be active are incredibly important to them – so is having their voices heard.
“The first phase of Future Healthy is about listening – we’re asking people aged 18-25 and parents and carers to join us in creating the solutions together that will promise a healthier future for all. We’ll be listening and learning as you share with us what we need to do to make happier, healthier living a reality for every young person.”
If you’re a young person in Victoria aged 18-25, or a parent or carer in Victoria with kids aged 0-17, share your experiences, challenges and ideas about what a healthy future means to you and your community at futurehealthy.vichealth.vic.gov.au
Zahra encouraged young people and their parents or carers to share their views.
“The first step starts with you!” she said.
Find out more about Zahra’s story at futurehealthy.vichealth.vic.gov.au/CommunityChampions/Zahra or her YouTube channel, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC99kFIoXHeOlSa16Un3-c5g