Rise Up uses an externally validated model to enable local leaders to improve health outcomes through leadership and organizational strengthening, funding, and advocacy. Through this work, the Champions for Change Initiative aims to build a better future by improving laws, policies, funding, and programs for girls, youth and women. It is an initiative of Rise Up’s, a flagship global programme of the Public Health Institute that works to advance health, education and equity for girls, youth and women.
The Coalition of Youth Advocates (COYA) network was established as a product of the Champions for Change workshop in 2016. Dedicated to advocating for change, the eight member organizations of COYA are focused on a collective advocacy campaign for the allocation of funds dedicated to the prevention and control of youth non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Nairobi County.
As part of the COYA network advocating to reduce youth NCDs in Nairobi County, the Network for Adolescents and Youth for Africa (NAYA) has taken the media by storm with a media advocacy campaign to raise awareness of the current and future burden of non-communicable disease (NCD) in Kenya and to advocate for the allocation of resources to address this challenge.
NCDs are a major public health concern in Kenya, accounting for over 50% of all hospital deaths and hospital admissions according to Kenya’s STEPwise Survey for NCD risk factors conducted in 2015. By 2030, it is predicted that NCDs will contribute to over 60% of deaths in the country. These conditions – like cardiovascular disease, cancers and diabetes – are increasing fastest in Low and Middle Income Countries and threaten to exact a heavy toll and their physical health and economic security (WHO, 2015).
But there is something that can be done to address this burden and this is what NAYA and the larger COYA network has put at the centre of their collaborative advocacy work.
NCDs are linked to a set of behaviours that can be changed. These are called modifiable risk factors and include tobacco use, the unhealthy use of alcohol, poor eating habits and physical inactivity. Preventing these habits from forming is a critical part of addressing the future burden of disease.
As NAYA youth advocate, Daniel Otieno, emphatically writes in one of the many articles he’s submitted through this campaign:
So what must we do to save our people, especially our youth, from health risks associated with tobacco and alcohol, which remain challenges to Kenyans? The journey must start with information. We must create awareness of the dangers of consuming alcohol and tobacco while emphasizing health eating and exercising.
NAYA youth advocates and COYA are reaching millions of Kenyans with information about NCDs and their impact on Kenya’s youth, putting pressure on county governments to put more resources towards the prevention and control of NCDs.
The Youth Health Programme
Through the Young Health Programme (YHP), funding is provided to Rise Up to deliver Champions for Change in Kenya and to provide grants to support the work of COYA and its members. The skills, knowledge and networks created through Champions for Change increases the capacity of local organisations to advocate for change and we can certainly see this in action through NAYA’s campaign and the advocacy efforts by other COYA members!